The Annals of Applied Statistics

Inferring causal impact using Bayesian structural time-series models

Kay H. Brodersen, Fabian Gallusser, Jim Koehler, Nicolas Remy, and Steven L. Scott

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An important problem in econometrics and marketing is to infer the causal impact that a designed market intervention has exerted on an outcome metric over time. This paper proposes to infer causal impact on the basis of a diffusion-regression state-space model that predicts the counterfactual market response in a synthetic control that would have occurred had no intervention taken place. In contrast to classical difference-in-differences schemes, state-space models make it possible to (i) infer the temporal evolution of attributable impact, (ii) incorporate empirical priors on the parameters in a fully Bayesian treatment, and (iii) flexibly accommodate multiple sources of variation, including local trends, seasonality and the time-varying influence of contemporaneous covariates. Using a Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm for posterior inference, we illustrate the statistical properties of our approach on simulated data. We then demonstrate its practical utility by estimating the causal effect of an online advertising campaign on search-related site visits. We discuss the strengths and limitations of state-space models in enabling causal attribution in those settings where a randomised experiment is unavailable. The CausalImpact R package provides an implementation of our approach.

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Ann. Appl. Stat. Volume 9, Number 1 (2015), 247-274.

First available in Project Euclid: 28 April 2015

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Causal inference counterfactual synthetic control observational difference in differences econometrics advertising market research


Brodersen, Kay H.; Gallusser, Fabian; Koehler, Jim; Remy, Nicolas; Scott, Steven L. Inferring causal impact using Bayesian structural time-series models. Ann. Appl. Stat. 9 (2015), no. 1, 247--274. doi:10.1214/14-AOAS788.

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