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Title: Quasi-oracle estimation of heterogeneous treatment effects
Summary Flexible estimation of heterogeneous treatment effects lies at the heart of many statistical applications, such as personalized medicine and optimal resource allocation. In this article we develop a general class of two-step algorithms for heterogeneous treatment effect estimation in observational studies. First, we estimate marginal effects and treatment propensities to form an objective function that isolates the causal component of the signal. Then, we optimize this data-adaptive objective function. The proposed approach has several advantages over existing methods. From a practical perspective, our method is flexible and easy to use: in both steps, any loss-minimization method can be employed, such as penalized regression, deep neural networks, or boosting; moreover, these methods can be fine-tuned by cross-validation. Meanwhile, in the case of penalized kernel regression, we show that our method has a quasi-oracle property. Even when the pilot estimates for marginal effects and treatment propensities are not particularly accurate, we achieve the same error bounds as an oracle with prior knowledge of these two nuisance components. We implement variants of our approach based on penalized regression, kernel ridge regression, and boosting in a variety of simulation set-ups, and observe promising performance relative to existing baselines.
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