On the Use and Abuse of Spatial Instruments Academic Article uri icon


  • Instruments based on realizations of the endogenous variable in other unitsfor instance, regional or global weighted averagesare commonly used in political science. Such spatial instruments have proved attractive: they are convenient to obtain, typically have power, and are plausibly exogenous. We argue that the assumptions underlying spatial instruments remain poorly understood and challenge whether spatial instruments can satisfy the conditions required for valid instruments. First, when cross-unit dependence exists in the endogenous predictor, other cross-unit relationshipsspillovers and interdependencelikely exist as well and risk violations of the exclusion restriction. Second, spatial instruments produce simultaneity in the first-stage equation, as left-hand side outcomes are included as right-hand side predictors. Because the instrument and the endogenous variable are simultaneously determined, the exclusion restriction is, necessarily and by construction, violated. Taken together, these concerns lead us to conclude that spatial instruments are rarely, if ever, valid.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 35.55

author list (cited authors)

  • Betz, T., Cook, S. J., & Hollenbach, F. M.

citation count

  • 28

complete list of authors

  • Betz, Timm||Cook, Scott J||Hollenbach, Florian M

publication date

  • October 2018