Article | Journal of Accounting Research

Causal Inference in Accounting Research

by Ian D. Gow, David F. Larcker and Peter C. Reiss


This paper examines the approaches accounting researchers use to draw causal inferences using observational (or non-experimental) data. The vast majority of accounting research papers draws causal inferences notwithstanding the well-known difficulties in doing so with observational data. While a minority of papers seeks to use quasi-experimental methods to draw inferences, there are concerns about how these methods are typically applied. We believe that accounting research would benefit from a greater focus on the study of causal mechanisms (or causal pathways), increased emphasis on structural modeling of the phenomena of interest, and more in-depth descriptive research. We argue these changes are possible and offer a practical path forward for rigorous accounting research.

Keywords: Accounting; Research;


Gow, Ian D., David F. Larcker, and Peter C. Reiss. "Causal Inference in Accounting Research." Journal of Accounting Research 54, no. 2 (May 2016): 477–523.