February 2008

IZA DP No. 3362: Heterogeneous Impacts in PROGRESA

published in: Journal of Econometrics, 2008, 145 (1-2), 64-80

The “common effect” model in program evaluation assumes that all treated individuals have the same impact from a program. Our paper contributes to the recent literature that tests and goes beyond the common effect model by investigating impact heterogeneity using data from the experimental evaluation of the Mexican conditional cash transfer program PROGRESA. Our analysis builds upon and extends that in Heckman, Smith and Clements (1997) and more recent studies of quantile treatment effects and random coefficient models. We find strong evidence of systematic (i.e. subgroup) variation in impacts in PROGRESA and modest evidence of heterogeneous impacts conditional on the systematic impacts. We find evidence against the perfect positive dependence assumption that underlies the interpretation of quantile treatment effects as impacts at quantiles of the untreated outcome distribution. Our paper concludes with a discussion of the policy relevance of our findings and of heterogeneous impacts more generally.