Uniform consistency in causal inference

There is a long tradition of representing causal relationships by directed acyclic graphs (Wright, 1934 ). Spirtes ( 1994), Spirtes et al. ( 1993) and Pearl & Verma ( 1991) describe procedures for inferring the presence or absence of causal arrows in the graph even if there might be unobserved confounding variables, and/or an unknown time order, and that under weak conditions, for certain combinations of directed acyclic graphs and probability distributions, are asymptotically, in sample size, consistent. These results are surprising since they seem to contradict the standard statistical wisdom that consistent estimators of causal effects do not exist for nonrandomised studies if there are potentially unobserved confounding variables. We resolve the apparent incompatibility of these views by closely examining the asymptotic properties of these causal inference procedures. We show that the asymptotically consistent procedures are ‘pointwise consistent’, but ‘uniformly consistent’ tests do not exist. Thus, no finite sample size can ever be guaranteed to approximate the asymptotic results. We also show the nonexistence of valid, consistent confidence intervals for causal effects and the nonexistence of uniformly consistent point estimators. Our results make no assumption about the form of the tests or estimators. In particular, the tests could be classical independence tests, they could be Bayes tests or they could be tests based on scoring methods such as  or . The implications of our results for observational studies are controversial and are discussed briefly in the last section of the paper. The results hinge on the following fact: it is possible to find, for each sample size n, distributions P and Q such that P and Q are empirically indistinguishable and yet P and Q correspond to different causal effects.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 9,360
External links
  •   Try with proxy.
  •   Try with proxy.
  •   Try with proxy.
  • Through your library Only published papers are available at libraries
    References found in this work BETA

    No references found.

    Citations of this work BETA

    No citations found.

    Similar books and articles

    Monthly downloads

    Added to index


    Total downloads

    5 ( #178,805 of 1,089,048 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)


    How can I increase my downloads?

    My notes
    Sign in to use this feature

    Start a new thread
    There  are no threads in this forum
    Nothing in this forum yet.