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  1. Summary

    Modern empirical work in regression discontinuity (RD) designs often employs local polynomial estimation and inference with a mean square error (MSE) optimal bandwidth choice. This bandwidth yields an MSE-optimal RD treatment effect estimator, but is by construction invalid for inference. Robust bias-corrected (RBC) inference methods are valid when using the MSE-optimal bandwidth, but we show that they yield suboptimal confidence intervals in terms of coverage error. We establish valid coverage error expansions for RBC confidence interval estimators and use these results to propose new inference-optimal bandwidth choices for forming these intervals. We find that the standard MSE-optimal bandwidth for the RD point estimator is too large when the goal is to construct RBC confidence intervals with the smaller coverage error rate. We further optimize the constant terms behind the coverage error to derive new optimal choices for the auxiliary bandwidth required for RBC inference. Our expansions also establish that RBC inference yields higher-order refinements (relative to traditional undersmoothing) in the context of RD designs. Our main results cover sharp and sharp kink RD designs under conditional heteroskedasticity, and we discuss extensions to fuzzy and other RD designs, clustered sampling, and pre-intervention covariates adjustments. The theoretical findings are illustrated with a Monte Carlo experiment and an empirical application, and the main methodological results are available in R and Stata packages.

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  2. This paper highlights a tension between semiparametric efficiency and bootstrap consistency in the context of a canonical semiparametric estimation problem, namely the problem of estimating the average density. It is shown that although simple plug-in estimators suffer from bias problems preventing them from achieving semiparametric efficiency under minimal smoothness conditions, the nonparametric bootstrap automatically corrects for this bias and that, as a result, these seemingly inferior estimators achieve bootstrap consistency under minimal smoothness conditions. In contrast, several “debiased” estimators that achieve semiparametric efficiency under minimal smoothness conditions do not achieve bootstrap consistency under those same conditions. 
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  3. Portfolio sorting is ubiquitous in the empirical finance literature, where it has been widely used to identify pricing anomalies. Despite its popularity, little attention has been paid to the statistical properties of the procedure. We develop a general framework for portfolio sorting by casting it as a nonparametric estimator. We present valid asymptotic inference methods and a valid mean square error expansion of the estimator leading to an optimal choice for the number of portfolios. In practical settings, the optimal choice may be much larger than the standard choices of five or ten. To illustrate the relevance of our results, we revisit the size and momentum anomalies. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    This paper proposes a valid bootstrap‐based distributional approximation for M ‐estimators exhibiting a Chernoff (1964)‐type limiting distribution. For estimators of this kind, the standard nonparametric bootstrap is inconsistent. The method proposed herein is based on the nonparametric bootstrap, but restores consistency by altering the shape of the criterion function defining the estimator whose distribution we seek to approximate. This modification leads to a generic and easy‐to‐implement resampling method for inference that is conceptually distinct from other available distributional approximations. We illustrate the applicability of our results with four examples in econometrics and machine learning. 
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