Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Instrumental Variables

Reading this post by Andrew Gelman got me thinking: how do we really know if a variable is an instrument? Demonstrating that a variable is an instrument often seems to be a matter of telling a compelling clinical story but leaves one with strong and unverifiable assumptions.

This is a real issue with the Physician Preference instrument in pharmacoepidemiology where it has the potential to be either a major advance or a blind alley. But how would one know for sure? I suspect that it is more likely the former than the latter but sorting this out with any level of certainty isn't easy.

Any insights out there?

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