Estimating the effect of treatment on binary outcomes using full matching on the propensity score

Peter C. Austin, Elizabeth A. Stuart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Many non-experimental studies use propensity-score methods to estimate causal effects by balancing treatment and control groups on a set of observed baseline covariates. Full matching on the propensity score has emerged as a particularly effective and flexible method for utilizing all available data, and creating well-balanced treatment and comparison groups. However, full matching has been used infrequently with binary outcomes, and relatively little work has investigated the performance of full matching when estimating effects on binary outcomes. This paper describes methods that can be used for estimating the effect of treatment on binary outcomes when using full matching. It then used Monte Carlo simulations to evaluate the performance of these methods based on full matching (with and without a caliper), and compared their performance with that of nearest neighbour matching (with and without a caliper) and inverse probability of treatment weighting. The simulations varied the prevalence of the treatment and the strength of association between the covariates and treatment assignment. Results indicated that all of the approaches work well when the strength of confounding is relatively weak. With stronger confounding, the relative performance of the methods varies, with nearest neighbour matching with a caliper showing consistently good performance across a wide range of settings. We illustrate the approaches using a study estimating the effect of inpatient smoking cessation counselling on survival following hospitalization for a heart attack.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2505-2525
Number of pages21
JournalStatistical Methods in Medical Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Monte Carlo simulations
  • Propensity score
  • bias
  • full matching
  • inverse probability of treatment weighting
  • matching
  • observational studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Health Information Management


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