Comparing econometric methods to empirically evaluate activation programs for job seekers

Paul Muller*, Bas van der Klaauw, Arjan Heyma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We test whether different identification strategies give similar results when evaluating activation programs. Budgetary problems at the Dutch unemployment insurance (UI) administration in March 2010 caused a sharp drop in the availability of these programs. Using administrative data provided by the UI administration, we evaluate the effect of the program (1) exploiting the policy discontinuity as a quasi-experiment, (2) using dynamic matching assuming conditional independence, and (3) applying the timing-of-events model. All three strategies use the same data to consider the same program in the same setting, and show that the program reduces job finding directly after enrollment. However, the magnitude of the estimated drop in job finding differs between the three estimation methods. In the longer run, all three methods show a zero effect on employment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526-547
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Applied Econometrics
Issue number5
Early online date14 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


This paper has previously circulated under the title “Comparing Econometric Methods to Empirically Evaluate Job Search Assistance.” We thank UWV, and in particular Han van der Heul for making the data available and providing information on institutions. This paper has benefited from comments and suggestions by Grégory Jolivet, Jaap Abbring, Mike Elsby, Bart Cockx, Bastian Ravesteijn, three anonymous reviewers, and seminar participants at the EALE (2013), ESPE (2014), VU University Amsterdam, University of Edinburgh, BeNA Berlin, University of Vienna, University of Copenhagen, University of Gothenburg, DIW Berlin, IZA Bonn and Collegio Carlo Alberto Turin. Van der Klaauw acknowledges financial support from a Vici grant from the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO).

FundersFunder number
Comparing Econometric Methods
University of Edinburgh
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek
Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas ESPE

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