fixest::sunab (Sun and Abraham 2020)

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Installation and options
  3. Dataset
  4. Test the package


Among (many) other things, Laurent Bergé’s fixest package supports the estimation procedure described by the Sun and Abraham 2020 paper Estimating Dynamic Treatment Effects in Event Studies with Heterogeneous Treatment Effects (hereafter SA20). The key function is sunab(), which provides equivalent functionality to the eventstudyinteract Stata command. However, it requires less manual tuning (e.g., leads and lags are detected automatically) and it integrates natively with fixest’s other facilities (e.g. graphing and tabling). As one would expect of fixest, estimation is also very fast—you will likely find it to be the fastest option among all of the specialist DiD libraries that we cover here. These features combine to make it an attractive and natural option for staggered DiD settings.

Installation and options

The package can be installed from CRAN.

install.packages("fixest") # Install (only need to run once or when updating)
library("fixest")          # Load the package into memory (required each new session)

The key function for implementing the SA20 aggregation procedure is sunab(). This serves as an internal argument for the fixest::feols() function that many users will be familiar with for estimating (high-dimensional fixed-effect) regressions. The most basic form is thus:

feols(y ~ sunab(cohort, period) | id + period, data, ...)


Variable Description
y outcome variable
cohort variable describing a common treatment period (e.g., year_treated)
period time variable
id panel id
Additional arguments

All of the regular feols() functionality and post-estimation options can be layered on top of the basic case above. For example, users can add covariates, change the default cohort reference (here: the never-treated), etc. It’s even possible to integrate sunab() into fixest’s nonlinear model estimators like feglm() and fepois(), although I don’t believe these have good theoretical support. See the helpfile (?sunab) for more detailed information, as well as the introductory vignette.


To demonstrate the package in action, we’ll use the fake dataset that we created earlier. Here’s a reminder of what the data look like.

#>   time id        y rel_time treat first_treat
#> 1    1  1 2.158289      -11 FALSE          12
#> 2    2  1 2.498052      -10 FALSE          12
#> 3    3  1 3.034077       -9 FALSE          12
#> 4    4  1 4.886266       -8 FALSE          12
#> 5    5  1 7.085950       -7 FALSE          12
#> 6    6  1 5.788352       -6 FALSE          12

Or, in graph form.

Test the package

Remember to load the package (if you haven’t already).


Let’s try the basic sunab() function (as integrated inside feols()). Note that we don’t have any covariates, although these would be trivial to add to the model formula. Similarly, we’ll explicitly cluster the standard errors by individual ID, although this is redundant since fixest automatically clusters by the first variable in the fixed-effect slot. This next code chunk should complete almost instaneously.

sa20 = feols(
    y ~ sunab(first_treat, rel_time) | id + time, 
    data = dat, vcov = ~id
#' OLS estimation, Dep. Var.: y
#' Observations: 1,800 
#' Fixed-effects: id: 30,  time: 60
#' Standard-errors: Clustered (id) 
#'                Estimate Std. Error   t value Pr(>|t|)    
#' rel_time::-43 -0.992231   0.833177 -1.190901 0.243349    
#' rel_time::-42 -0.682967   0.725131 -0.941854 0.354048    
#' rel_time::-41  0.055083   0.902155  0.061057 0.951733    
#' rel_time::-40 -0.350181   0.549271 -0.637537 0.528777    
#' rel_time::-39 -0.433172   1.175733 -0.368427 0.715231    
#' rel_time::-38 -1.877821   0.949817 -1.977035 0.057614 .  
#' rel_time::-37 -1.994746   0.898465 -2.220171 0.034382 *  
#' rel_time::-36 -0.734659   0.840305 -0.874276 0.389151    
#' ... 83 coefficients remaining (display them with summary() or use argument n)
#' ---
#' Signif. codes:  0 '***' 0.001 '**' 0.01 '*' 0.05 '.' 0.1 ' ' 1
#' RMSE: 0.913773     Adj. R2: 0.999927
#'                  Within R2: 0.999686

Being a fixest model, all of the usual methods apply to our sa20 object. For example, we can export the regression table to LaTeX with etable(), or visualize the event-study with iplot(). Here I’ll do the latter, using a bit of regex to drop leads and lags with 2 digits (i.e., dropping everything greater than 9 periods away from treatment). This isn’t strictly necessary, but will sharpen up our focus on the periods around the treatment date.

# iplot(sa20)
# Vanilla option (above) is fine, but we can tweak a bit...
sa20 |>
    main     = "fixest::sunab",
    xlab     = "Time to treatment",
    drop     = "[[:digit:]]{2}",    # Limit lead and lag periods to -9:9
    ref.line = 1

P.S. For those of you that would prefer a ggplot2 version of the above (base R) plot, check out ggfixest.