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Assessing covariate balance when using the generalized propensity score with quantitative or continuous exposures


Propensity score methods are increasingly being used to estimate the effects of treatments and exposures when using observational data. The propensity score was initially developed for use with binary exposures (e.g., active treatment vs. control). The generalized propensity score is an extension of the propensity score for use with quantitative exposures (e.g., dose or quantity of medication, income, years of education). A crucial component of any propensity score analysis is that of balance assessment. This entails assessing the degree to which conditioning on the propensity score (via matching, weighting, or stratification) has balanced measured baseline covariates between exposure groups. Methods for balance assessment have been well described and are frequently implemented when using the propensity score with binary exposures. However, there is a paucity of information on how to assess baseline covariate balance when using the generalized propensity score. We describe how methods based on the standardized difference can be adapted for use with quantitative exposures when using the generalized propensity score. We also describe a method based on assessing the correlation between the quantitative exposure and each covariate in the sample when weighted using generalized propensity score -based weights. We conducted a series of Monte Carlo simulations to evaluate the performance of these methods. We also compared two different methods of estimating the generalized propensity score: ordinary least squared regression and the covariate balancing propensity score method. We illustrate the application of these methods using data on patients hospitalized with a heart attack with the quantitative exposure being creatinine level.



Austin PC. Stat Methods Med Res. 2019; 28(5):1365-77. Epub 2018 Feb 8.

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