The use of propensity scores in mediation analysis

Booil Jo, Elizabeth A. Stuart, David P. Mackinnon, Amiram D. Vinokur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Mediation analysis uses measures of hypothesized mediating variables to test theory for how a treatment achieves effects on outcomes and to improve subsequent treatments by identifying the most efficient treatment components. Most current mediation analysis methods rely on untested distributional and functional form assumptions for valid conclusions, especially regarding the relation between the mediator and outcome variables. Propensity score methods offer an alternative whereby the propensity score is used to compare individuals in the treatment and control groups who would have had the same value of the mediator had they been assigned to the same treatment condition. This article describes the use of propensity score weighting for mediation with a focus on explicating the underlying assumptions. Propensity scores have the potential to offer an alternative estimation procedure for mediation analysis with alternative assumptions from those of standard mediation analysis. The methods are illustrated investigating the mediational effects of an intervention to improve sense of mastery to reduce depression using data from the Job Search Intervention Study (JOBS II). We find significant treatment effects for those individuals who would have improved sense of mastery when in the treatment condition but no effects for those who would not have improved sense of mastery under treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-452
Number of pages28
JournalMultivariate Behavioral Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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