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The Use of Instrumental Variables in Higher Education Research

Theory and Method in Higher Education Research

ISBN: 978-1-80043-321-2, eISBN: 978-1-80043-320-5

Publication date: 9 November 2020


Higher education researchers are often challenged by the difficulty of empirically validating causal links posited by theories or inferred from correlational observations. The instrumental variable (IV) estimation strategy is one approach that researchers can use to estimate the causal impact of various higher education–related interventions. In this chapter, we discuss how the body of quantitative research specifically devoted to higher education has made use of the IV estimation strategy: we describe how this estimation strategy was used to address causality concerns and provide examples of the types of IVs that were used in various subfields of higher education research. Our discussion is based on a systematic review of a corpus of econometric studies on higher education–related issues that spans the last 30 years. The chapter concludes with a critical discussion of the use of IVs in quantitative higher education research and a discussion of good practices when using an IV estimation strategy.




The contribution of Viorel Proteasa was supported by a grant of the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research, grant number POCU/320/6/21/121030. The funding agency had no role in the design and implementation of the study.


Orosz, K., Proteasa, V. and Crăciun, D. (2020), "The Use of Instrumental Variables in Higher Education Research", Huisman, J. and Tight, M. (Ed.) Theory and Method in Higher Education Research (Theory and Method in Higher Education Research, Vol. 6), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 61-80.



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