Synthetic Controls: A New Approach to Evaluating Interventions

Craig, P. (2015) Synthetic Controls: A New Approach to Evaluating Interventions. Working Paper. What Works Scotland.

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Synthetic control methods are a novel approach to comparative case study research using observational data. Though developed within political science, the methods can potentially be applied to a wide range of evaluation problems in economics, public health, social policy and other disciplines. In the traditional approach, an area in which a new or redesigned service is being implemented is compared with another ‘control’ area (in which there is no change) and statistical adjustment used to account for any differences between areas that might bias the comparison. In the new approach, a synthetic control is derived using data on past trends in all potentially comparable areas, providing a more robust basis for identifying the impact of the service change. Synthetic control methods may be a valuable addition to the range of techniques available for non-randomised evaluations of social, economic and public health interventions. To date there have been few applications in a UK context, and none in Scotland. Published evidence suggests considerable potential to apply synthetic controls to public service innovations at NHS Board, local authority or Community Planning Partnership level, and may widen the range of policy and practice changes that can usefully be evaluated.

Item Type:Research Reports or Papers (Working Paper)
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Craig, Dr Peter
Authors: Craig, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Publisher:What Works Scotland
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 What Works Scotland
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with permission of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727671SPHSU Core Renewal: Informing Healthy Public Policy Research ProgrammePeter CraigMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/15IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU