Causal Analysis in Theory and Practice

July 25, 2000

General criterion for parameter identification

Filed under: Identification — moderator @ 12:00 am

The parameter identification method described in Section 5.3.1 rests on two criteria: (1) The single door criterion of Theorem 5.3.1, and the back-door criterion of Theorem 5.3.2. This method may require appreciable bookkeeping in combining results from various segments of the graph. Is there a single graphical criterion of identification that unifies the two Theorems and thus avoids much of the bookkeeping involved?

1 Comment »

  1. This is a very insightful question, thanks!. The answer is: Yes. The unifying criterion is described in the following Lemma.

    Lemma 1 (Graphical identification of direct effects)
    Let c stand for the path coefficient assigned to the arrow X –> Y in a causal graph G. Parameter c is identified if there exists a pair (W, Z), where W is a single node in G (not excluding W=X), and Z is a (possibly empty) set of nodes in G, such that:

    1. Z consists of nondescendants of Y,
    2. Z d-separates W from Y in the graph Gc formed by removing X –> Y from G.
    3. W and X are d-connected, given Z, in Gc.

    Moreover, the estimand induced by the pair (W, Z) is given by:

    The idea of unifying the two criteria came to me while reading Rod McDonald's recent paper "What can we learn from the path equations?" (Submitted). I have used this Lemma in a new report (R-276.pdf) / (, "Parameter identification: a new perspective". This report removes major inconsistencies in traditional definitions of parameter overidentification and offers graphical methods for deciding the degree to which a parameter is overidentified in a given model.

    Best wishes,
    ========Judea Pearl

    Comment by judea — February 21, 2007 @ 11:40 pm

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