Propensity Score Matching in Criminology and Criminal Justice

  • Robert J. Apel
  • Gary Sweeten


The propensity score methodology has become quite common in applied research in the last 10 years, and criminology is no exception to this growing trend. It offers a potentially powerful way to estimate the treatment effect of some intervention on behavior when the receipt of treatment arises in a nonrandom way – this is the selection problem. It does so by creating synthetic “experimental” and “control” groups that are equivalent on a large number of potential confounding variables. In this chapter, we first introduce the counterfactual framework on which the propensity score method is based and define the average treatment effect. We then outline technical issues that must be addressed when the propensity score method is used in practice, including estimation of the propensity score, demonstration of covariate balance, and estimation of the treatment effect of interest. To provide a step-by-step example of the method, we appeal to the relationship between employment and substance use in adolescence. Following a brief review of research in criminology and related disciplines that employ the propensity score methodology, we offer a number of guidelines for use of the technique.


Propensity Score Propensity Score Match Average Treatment Effect Propensity Score Model Propensity Score Method 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Apel
    • 1
  • Gary Sweeten
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Criminal JusticeUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeArizona State UniversityScottsdaleUSA

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