Better experimental design by hybridizing binary matching with imbalance optimization

Abba M. Krieger, David A. Azriel, Adam Kapelner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a new experimental design procedure that divides a set of experimental units into two groups in order to minimize error in estimating a treatment effect. One concern is the elimination of large covariate imbalance between the two groups before the experiment begins. Another concern is robustness of the design to misspecification in response models. We address both concerns in our proposed design: we first place subjects into pairs using optimal nonbipartite matching, making our estimator robust to complicated nonlinear response models. Our innovation is to keep the matched pairs extant, take differences of the covariate values within each matched pair, and then use the greedy switching heuristic of Krieger et al. (2019) or rerandomization on these differences. This latter step greatly reduces covariate imbalance. Furthermore, our resultant designs are shown to be nearly as random as matching, which is robust to unobserved covariates. When compared to previous designs, our approach exhibits significant improvement in the mean squared error of the treatment effect estimator when the response model is nonlinear and performs at least as well when the response model is linear. Our design procedure can be found as a method in the open source R package available on CRAN called GreedyExperimentalDesign.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-292
Number of pages18
JournalCanadian Journal of Statistics
Issue number1
Early online date2 Feb 2022
StatePublished Online - 2 Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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