Bayesian propensity scores for high-dimensional causal inference: A comparison of drug-eluting to bare-metal coronary stents


High-dimensional data provide many potential confounders that may bolster the plausibility of the ignorability assumption in causal inference problems. Propensity score methods are powerful causal inference tools, which are popular in health care research and are particularly useful for high-dimensional data. Recent interest has surrounded a Bayesian treatment of propensity scores in order to flexibly model the treatment assignment mechanism and summarize posterior quantities while incorporating variance from the treatment model. We discuss methods for Bayesian propensity score analysis of binary treatments, focusing on modern methods for high-dimensional Bayesian regression and the propagation of uncertainty. We introduce a novel and simple estimator for the average treatment effect that capitalizes on conjugacy of the beta and binomial distributions. Through simulations, we show the utility of horseshoe priors and Bayesian additive regression trees paired with our new estimator, while demonstrating the importance of including variance from the treatment regression model. An application to cardiac stent data with almost 500 confounders and 9000 patients illustrates approaches and facilitates comparison with existing alternatives. As measured by a falsifiability endpoint, we improved confounder adjustment compared with past observational research of the same problem.