Effect decomposition is a critical technique for mechanism investigation in settings with multiple causally ordered mediators. Causal mediation analysis is a standard method for effect decomposition, but the assumptions required for the identification process are extremely strong. By extending the framework of controlled direct effects, this study proposes the effect attributable to mediators (EAM) as a novel measure for effect decomposition. For policy making, EAM represents how much an effect can be eliminated by setting mediators to certain values. From the perspective of mechanism investigation, EAM contains information about how much a particular mediator or set of mediators is involved in the causal mechanism through mediation, interaction, or both. The assumptions of EAM for identification are considerably weaker than the those of causal mediation analysis. We develop a semiparametric estimator of EAM with robustness to model misspecification. The asymptotic property is fully realized. We applied EAM to assess the magnitude of the effect of hepatitis C virus infection on mortality, which was eliminated by controlling alanine aminotransferase and treating hepatocellular carcinoma.
Tai, An-Shun; Du, Yi-Juan; and Lin, Sheng-Hsuan, "Robust inference on effects attributable to mediators: A controlled-direct-effect-based approach for causal effect decomposition with multiple mediators" (August 2020). Harvard University Biostatistics Working Paper Series. Working Paper 225.