A sensitivity analysis for missing outcomes due to truncation by death under the matched-pairs design

Stat Med. 2018 Sep 10;37(20):2907-2922. doi: 10.1002/sim.7802. Epub 2018 Apr 29.


The matched-pairs design enables researchers to efficiently infer causal effects from randomized experiments. In this paper, we exploit the key feature of the matched-pairs design and develop a sensitivity analysis for missing outcomes due to truncation by death, in which the outcomes of interest (e.g., quality of life measures) are not even well defined for some units (e.g., deceased patients). Our key idea is that if 2 nearly identical observations are paired prior to the randomization of the treatment, the missingness of one unit's outcome is informative about the potential missingness of the other unit's outcome under an alternative treatment condition. We consider the average treatment effect among always-observed pairs (ATOP) whose units exhibit no missing outcome regardless of their treatment status. The naive estimator based on available pairs is unbiased for the ATOP if 2 units of the same pair are identical in terms of their missingness patterns. The proposed sensitivity analysis characterizes how the bounds of the ATOP widen as the degree of the within-pair similarity decreases. We further extend the methodology to the matched-pairs design in observational studies. Our simulation studies show that informative bounds can be obtained under some scenarios when the proportion of missing data is not too large. The proposed methodology is also applied to the randomized evaluation of the Mexican universal health insurance program. An open-source software package is available for implementing the proposed research.

Keywords: average treatment effect; bounds; causal inference; observational studies; randomized experiments.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Matched-Pair Analysis*
  • Mexico
  • Models, Statistical
  • Mortality*
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Software
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Universal Health Insurance