Energy balancing of covariate distributions

Jared D. Huling, Simon Mak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bias in causal comparisons has a correspondence with distributional imbalance of covariates between treatment groups. Weighting strategies such as inverse propensity score weighting attempt to mitigate bias by either modeling the treatment assignment mechanism or balancing specified covariate moments. This article introduces a new weighting method, called energy balancing, which instead aims to balance weighted covariate distributions. By directly targeting distributional imbalance, the proposed weighting strategy can be flexibly utilized in a wide variety of causal analyses without the need for careful model or moment specification. Our energy balancing weights (EBW) approach has several advantages over existing weighting techniques. First, it offers a model-free and robust approach for obtaining covariate balance that does not require tuning parameters, obviating the need for modeling decisions of secondary nature to the scientific question at hand. Second, since this approach is based on a genuine measure of distributional balance, it provides a means for assessing the balance induced by a given set of weights for a given dataset. We demonstrate the effectiveness of this EBW approach in a suite of simulation experiments, and in studies on the safety of right heart catheterization and on three additional studies using electronic health record data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20220029
JournalJournal of Causal Inference
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 the author(s), published by De Gruyter.


  • causal inference
  • covariate balance
  • energy distance
  • observational data
  • weighting


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