Estimating Individual Treatment Effects using Non-Parametric Regression Models: a Review


Large observational data are increasingly available in disciplines such as health, economic and social sciences, where researchers are interested in causal questions rather than prediction. In this paper, we investigate the problem of estimating heterogeneous treatment effects using non-parametric regression-based methods. Firstly, we introduce the setup and the issues related to conducting causal inference with observational or non-fully randomized data, and how these issues can be tackled with the help of statistical learning tools. Then, we provide a review of state-of-the-art methods, with a particular focus on non-parametric modeling, and we cast them under a unifying taxonomy. After presenting a brief overview on the problem of model selection, we illustrate the performance of some of the methods on three different simulated studies and on a real world example to investigate the effect of participation in school meal programs on health indicators.

Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A