nhaliday + bias-variance   25

trees are harlequins, words are harlequins — bayes: a kinda-sorta masterpost
lol, gwern: https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/6ghsxf/biweekly_rational_feed/diqr0rq/
> What sort of person thinks “oh yeah, my beliefs about these coefficients correspond to a Gaussian with variance 2.5″? And what if I do cross-validation, like I always do, and find that variance 200 works better for the problem? Was the other person wrong? But how could they have known?
> ...Even ignoring the mode vs. mean issue, I have never met anyone who could tell whether their beliefs were normally distributed vs. Laplace distributed. Have you?
I must have spent too much time in Bayesland because both those strike me as very easy and I often think them! My beliefs usually are Laplace distributed when it comes to things like genetics (it makes me very sad to see GWASes with flat priors), and my Gaussian coefficients are actually a variance of 0.70 (assuming standardized variables w.l.o.g.) as is consistent with field-wide meta-analyses indicating that d>1 is pretty rare.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Econometric Modeling as Junk Science
The Credibility Revolution in Empirical Economics: How Better Research Design Is Taking the Con out of Econometrics: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.24.2.3

On data, experiments, incentives and highly unconvincing research – papers and hot beverages: https://papersandhotbeverages.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/on-data-experiments-incentives-and-highly-unconvincing-research/
In my view, it has just to do with the fact that academia is a peer monitored organization. In the case of (bad) data collection papers, issues related to measurement are typically boring. They are relegated to appendices, no one really has an incentive to monitor it seriously. The problem is similar in formal theory: no one really goes through the algebra in detail, but it is in principle feasible to do it, and, actually, sometimes these errors are detected. If discussing the algebra of a proof is almost unthinkable in a seminar, going into the details of data collection, measurement and aggregation is not only hard to imagine, but probably intrinsically infeasible.

Something different happens for the experimentalist people. As I was saying, I feel we have come to a point in which many papers are evaluated based on the cleverness and originality of the research design (“Using the World Cup qualifiers as an instrument for patriotism!? Woaw! how cool/crazy is that! I wish I had had that idea”). The sexiness of the identification strategy has too often become a goal in itself. When your peers monitor you paying more attention to the originality of the identification strategy than to the research question, you probably have an incentive to mine reality for ever crazier discontinuities. It is true methodologists have been criticized in the past for analogous reasons, such as being guided by the desire to increase mathematical complexity without a clear benefit. But, if you work with pure formal theory or statistical theory, your work is not meant to immediately answer question about the real world, but instead to serve other researchers in their quest. This is something that can, in general, not be said of applied CI work.

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/662007951415238656
This post should have been entitled “Zombies who only think of their next cool IV fix”
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/662692917069422592
massive lust for quasi-natural experiments, regression discontinuities
barely matters if the effects are not all that big
I suppose even the best of things must reach their decadent phase; methodological innov. to manias……

https://twitter.com/cblatts/status/920988530788130816
Following this "collapse of small-N social psych results" business, where do I predict econ will collapse? I see two main contenders.
One is lab studies. I dallied with these a few years ago in a Kenya lab. We ran several pilots of N=200 to figure out the best way to treat
and to measure the outcome. Every pilot gave us a different stat sig result. I could have written six papers concluding different things.
I gave up more skeptical of these lab studies than ever before. The second contender is the long run impacts literature in economic history
We should be very suspicious since we never see a paper showing that a historical event had no effect on modern day institutions or dvpt.
On the one hand I find these studies fun, fascinating, and probably true in a broad sense. They usually reinforce a widely believed history
argument with interesting data and a cute empirical strategy. But I don't think anyone believes the standard errors. There's probably a HUGE
problem of nonsignificant results staying in the file drawer. Also, there are probably data problems that don't get revealed, as we see with
the recent Piketty paper (http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/10/pikettys-data-reliable.html). So I take that literature with a vat of salt, even if I enjoy and admire the works
I used to think field experiments would show little consistency in results across place. That external validity concerns would be fatal.
In fact the results across different samples and places have proven surprisingly similar across places, and added a lot to general theory
Last, I've come to believe there is no such thing as a useful instrumental variable. The ones that actually meet the exclusion restriction
are so weird & particular that the local treatment effect is likely far different from the average treatment effect in non-transparent ways.
Most of the other IVs don't plausibly meet the e clue ion restriction. I mean, we should be concerned when the IV estimate is always 10x
larger than the OLS coefficient. This I find myself much more persuaded by simple natural experiments that use OLS, diff in diff, or
discontinuities, alongside randomized trials.

What do others think are the cliffs in economics?
PS All of these apply to political science too. Though I have a special extra target in poli sci: survey experiments! A few are good. I like
Dan Corstange's work. But it feels like 60% of dissertations these days are experiments buried in a survey instrument that measure small
changes in response. These at least have large N. But these are just uncontrolled labs, with negligible external validity in my mind.
The good ones are good. This method has its uses. But it's being way over-applied. More people have to make big and risky investments in big
natural and field experiments. Time to raise expectations and ambitions. This expectation bar, not technical ability, is the big advantage
economists have over political scientists when they compete in the same space.
(Ok. So are there any friends and colleagues I haven't insulted this morning? Let me know and I'll try my best to fix it with a screed)

HOW MUCH SHOULD WE TRUST DIFFERENCES-IN-DIFFERENCES ESTIMATES?∗: https://economics.mit.edu/files/750
Most papers that employ Differences-in-Differences estimation (DD) use many years of data and focus on serially correlated outcomes but ignore that the resulting standard errors are inconsistent. To illustrate the severity of this issue, we randomly generate placebo laws in state-level data on female wages from the Current Population Survey. For each law, we use OLS to compute the DD estimate of its “effect” as well as the standard error of this estimate. These conventional DD standard errors severely understate the standard deviation of the estimators: we find an “effect” significant at the 5 percent level for up to 45 percent of the placebo interventions. We use Monte Carlo simulations to investigate how well existing methods help solve this problem. Econometric corrections that place a specific parametric form on the time-series process do not perform well. Bootstrap (taking into account the auto-correlation of the data) works well when the number of states is large enough. Two corrections based on asymptotic approximation of the variance-covariance matrix work well for moderate numbers of states and one correction that collapses the time series information into a “pre” and “post” period and explicitly takes into account the effective sample size works well even for small numbers of states.

‘METRICS MONDAY: 2SLS–CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD: http://marcfbellemare.com/wordpress/12733
As it turns out, Young finds that
1. Conventional tests tend to overreject the null hypothesis that the 2SLS coefficient is equal to zero.
2. 2SLS estimates are falsely declared significant one third to one half of the time, depending on the method used for bootstrapping.
3. The 99-percent confidence intervals (CIs) of those 2SLS estimates include the OLS point estimate over 90 of the time. They include the full OLS 99-percent CI over 75 percent of the time.
4. 2SLS estimates are extremely sensitive to outliers. Removing simply one outlying cluster or observation, almost half of 2SLS results become insignificant. Things get worse when removing two outlying clusters or observations, as over 60 percent of 2SLS results then become insignificant.
5. Using a Durbin-Wu-Hausman test, less than 15 percent of regressions can reject the null that OLS estimates are unbiased at the 1-percent level.
6. 2SLS has considerably higher mean squared error than OLS.
7. In one third to one half of published results, the null that the IVs are totally irrelevant cannot be rejected, and so the correlation between the endogenous variable(s) and the IVs is due to finite sample correlation between them.
8. Finally, fewer than 10 percent of 2SLS estimates reject instrument irrelevance and the absence of OLS bias at the 1-percent level using a Durbin-Wu-Hausman test. It gets much worse–fewer than 5 percent–if you add in the requirement that the 2SLS CI that excludes the OLS estimate.

Methods Matter: P-Hacking and Causal Inference in Economics*: http://ftp.iza.org/dp11796.pdf
Applying multiple methods to 13,440 hypothesis tests reported in 25 top economics journals in 2015, we show that selective publication and p-hacking is a substantial problem in research employing DID and (in particular) IV. RCT and RDD are much less problematic. Almost 25% of claims of marginally significant results in IV papers are misleading.

https://twitter.com/NoamJStein/status/1040887307568664577
Ever since I learned social science is completely fake, I've had a lot more time to do stuff that matters, like deadlifting and reading about Mediterranean haplogroups
--
Wait, so, from fakest to realest IV>DD>RCT>RDD? That totally matches my impression.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
POPULATION STRUCTURE AND QUANTITATIVE CHARACTERS
The variance of among-group variance is substantial and does not depend on the number of loci contributing to variance in the character. It is just as large for polygenic characters as for single loci with the same additive variance. This implies that one polygenic character contains exactly as much information about population relationships as one single-locus marker.

same is true of expectation apparently (so drift has same impact on polygenic and single-locus traits)
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may 2017 by nhaliday
probability - Variance of maximum of Gaussian random variables - Cross Validated
In full generality it is rather hard to find the right order of magnitude of the variance of a Gaussien supremum since the tools from concentration theory are always suboptimal for the maximum function.

order ~ 1/log n
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february 2017 by nhaliday
bounds - What is the variance of the maximum of a sample? - Cross Validated
- sum of variances is always a bound
- can't do better even for iid Bernoulli
- looks like nice argument from well-known probabilist (using E[(X-Y)^2] = 2Var X), but not clear to me how he gets to sum_i instead of sum_{i,j} in the union bound?
edit: argument is that, for j = argmax_k Y_k, we have r < X_i - Y_j <= X_i - Y_i for all i, including i = argmax_k X_k
- different proof here (later pages): http://www.ism.ac.jp/editsec/aism/pdf/047_1_0185.pdf
Var(X_n:n) <= sum Var(X_k:n) + 2 sum_{i < j} Cov(X_i:n, X_j:n) = Var(sum X_k:n) = Var(sum X_k) = nσ^2
why are the covariances nonnegative? (are they?). intuitively seems true.
- for that, see https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:ed4466204bb1
- note that this proof shows more generally that sum Var(X_k:n) <= sum Var(X_k)
- apparently that holds for dependent X_k too? http://mathoverflow.net/a/96943/20644
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Count–min sketch - Wikipedia
- estimates frequency vector (f_i)
- idea:
d = O(log 1/δ) hash functions h_j: [n] -> [w] (w = O(1/ε))
d*w counters a[r, c]
for each event i, increment counters a[1, h_1(i)], a[2, h_2(i)], ..., a[d, h_d(i)]
estimate for f_i is min_j a[j, h_j(i)]
- never underestimates but upward-biased
- pf: Markov to get constant probability of success, then exponential decrease with repetition
lecture notes: http://theory.stanford.edu/~tim/s15/l/l2.pdf
- note this can work w/ negative updates. just use median instead of min. pf still uses markov on the absolute value of error.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
teaching - Intuitive explanation for dividing by $n-1$ when calculating standard deviation? - Cross Validated
The standard deviation calculated with a divisor of n-1 is a standard deviation calculated from the sample as an estimate of the standard deviation of the population from which the sample was drawn. Because the observed values fall, on average, closer to the sample mean than to the population mean, the standard deviation which is calculated using deviations from the sample mean underestimates the desired standard deviation of the population. Using n-1 instead of n as the divisor corrects for that by making the result a little bit bigger.

Note that the correction has a larger proportional effect when n is small than when it is large, which is what we want because when n is larger the sample mean is likely to be a good estimator of the population mean.

...

A common one is that the definition of variance (of a distribution) is the second moment recentered around a known, definite mean, whereas the estimator uses an estimated mean. This loss of a degree of freedom (given the mean, you can reconstitute the dataset with knowledge of just n−1 of the data values) requires the use of n−1 rather than nn to "adjust" the result.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
pr.probability - Google question: In a country in which people only want boys - MathOverflow
- limits to 1/2 w/ number of families -> ∞
- proportion of girls in one family is biased estimator of proportion in general population (larger families w/ more girls count more)
- interesting comment on Douglas Zare's answer (whether process has stopped or not)
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december 2016 by nhaliday
A computer program used for bail and sentencing decisions was labeled biased against blacks. It’s actually not that clear. - The Washington Post
How We Analyzed the COMPAS Recidivism Algorithm: https://www.propublica.org/article/how-we-analyzed-the-compas-recidivism-algorithm
Automatic Justice: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/automatic-justice/
A.I. ‘BIAS’ DOESN’T MEAN WHAT JOURNALISTS SAY IT MEANS: https://jacobitemag.com/2017/08/29/a-i-bias-doesnt-mean-what-journalists-want-you-to-think-it-means/
When a journalist discusses bias, they typically do not mean it in the same manner that statisticians do. As described in the examples above, a journalist typically uses the term “bias” when an algorithm’s output fails to live up to the journalist’s ideal reality.
Machine Learning and Human Bias: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59bMh59JQDo
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Tetlock and Gardner’s Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction | EVOLVING ECONOMICS
not as good as Expert Political Judgement apparently

Tetlock’s formula for a successful team is fairly simple. Get lots of forecasts, calculate the average of the forecast, and give extra weight to the top forecasters – a version of wisdom of the crowds. Then extremize the forecast. If the forecast is a 70% probability, bump up to 85%. If 30%, cut it to 15%.

The idea behind extremising is quite clever. No one in the group has access to all the dispersed information. If everyone had all the available information, this would tend to raise their confidence, which would result in a more extreme forecast. Since we can’t give everyone all the information, extremising is an attempt to simulate what would happen if you did. To get the benefits of this extremising, however, requires diversity. If everyone holds the same information there is no sharing of information to be simulated.
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september 2016 by nhaliday
Democracy does not cause growth | Brookings Institution
64-page paper
Democracy & Growth: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4909
The favorable effects on growth include maintenance of the rule of law, free markets, small government consumption, and high human capital. Once these kinds of variables and the initial level of real per-capita GDP are held constant, the overall effect of democracy on growth is weakly negative. There is a suggestion of a nonlinear relationship in which democracy enhances growth at low levels of political freedom but depresses growth when a moderate level of freedom has already been attained.

The growth effect of democracy: Is it heterogenous and how can it be estimated∗: http://perseus.iies.su.se/~tpers/papers/cifar_paper_may16_07.pdf
In particular, we find an average negative effect on growth of leaving democracy on the order of −2 percentage points implying effects on income per capita as large as 45 percent over the 1960-2000 panel. Heterogenous characteristics of reforming and non-reforming countries appear to play an important role in driving these results.

Does democracy cause innovation? An empirical test of the popper hypothesis: http://www.sciencedirect.com.sci-hub.cc/science/article/pii/S0048733317300975
The results from the difference-in-differences method show that democracy itself has no direct positive effect on innovation measured with patent counts, patent citations and patent originality.

Benevolent Autocrats: https://williameasterly.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/benevolent-autocrats-easterly-draft.pdf
A large literature attributes this to the higher variance of growth rates under autocracy than under democracy. The literature offers alternative explanations for this stylized fact: (1) leaders don’t matter under democracy, but good and bad leaders under autocracy cause high and low growth, (2) leaders don’t matter under autocracy either, but good and bad autocratic systems cause greater extremes of high and low growth, or (3) democracy does better than autocracy at reducing variance from shocks from outside the political system. This paper details further the stylized facts to test these distinctions. Inconsistent with (1), the variance of growth within the terms of leaders swamps the variance across leaders, and more so under autocracy than under democracy. Country effects under autocracy are also overwhelmed by within-country variance, inconsistent with (2). Explanation (3) fits the stylized facts the best of the three alternatives.

Political Institutions, Size of Government and Redistribution: An empirical investigation: http://www.lse.ac.uk/internationalDevelopment/pdf/WP/WP89.pdf
Results show that the stronger democratic institutions are, the lower is government size and the higher the redistributional capacity of the state. Political competition exercises the strongest and most robust effect on the two variables.

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/899466295170801664
https://archive.is/sPFII
Fits the high-variance theory of autocracies:
More miracles, more disasters. And there's a lot of demand for miracles.

Measuring the ups and downs of governance: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2017/09/22/measuring-the-ups-and-downs-of-governance/
Figure 2: Voice and Accountability and Government Effectiveness, 2016
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/917444456386666497
https://archive.is/EBQlD
Georgia, Japan, Rwanda, and Serbia ↑ Gov Effectiveness; Indonesia, Tunisia, Liberia, Serbia, and Nigeria ↑ Voice and Accountability.

The logic of hereditary rule: theory and evidence: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/69615/
Hereditary leadership has been an important feature of the political landscape throughout history. This paper argues that hereditary leadership is like a relational contract which improves policy incentives. We assemble a unique dataset on leaders between 1874 and 2004 in which we classify them as hereditary leaders based on their family history. The core empirical finding is that economic growth is higher in polities with hereditary leaders but only if executive constraints are weak. Moreover, this holds across of a range of specifications. The finding is also mirrored in policy outcomes which affect growth. In addition, we find that hereditary leadership is more likely to come to an end when the growth performance under the incumbent leader is poor.

I noted this when the paper was a working paper, but non-hereditary polities with strong contraints have higher growth rates.
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september 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : abstractacmpatterns

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