Thomas König, Guido Ropers, Anika Buchmann
Comparative politics and causal evaluation of structural reforms: the case of the UK national minimum wage introduction

Political Science Research and Methods, 2020: 8, Heft 2, S. 301-314
ISSN: 2049-8470 (print), 2049-8489 (online)

In comparative studies, causal evaluations attempt to improve our understanding of the effectiveness of structural reforms by counterfactually inspecting post-treatment effects. Yet, even if comparative scholars find similar treatment and comparison units, the interpretation of the post-treatment trajectory is difficult as short-term estimates can be subject to strategic timing of reform implementation, while long-term effects are likely affected by further interventions. To illustrate these difficulties we apply the generalized synthetic control method to evaluate the introduction of a British national minimum wage. We find a short-term decreasing effect on youth unemployment that turns into an increasing effect over time. This suggests the presence of an upward biased selection effect from strategic timing. We also inspect two post-treatment interventions and find that they differ in their general and country-specific implications for the long-term trajectory.