# Probabilistic Foundations of Econometrics, part 1

In a series of posts, I wanted to get into details of the history and foundations of econometric and machine learning models. It will be some sort of online version of our joint paper with Emmanuel Flachaire and Antoine Ly, Econometrics and Machine Learning (initially writen in French), that will actually appear soon in the journal Economics and Statistics. This is the first one…

The importance of probabilistic models in economics is rooted in Working’s (1927) questions and the attempts to answer them in Tinbergen’s two volumes (1939). The latter have subsequently generated a great deal of work, as recalled by Duo (1993) in his book on the foundations of econometrics, and more particularly in the first chapter “The Probability Foundations of Econometrics”. It should be recalled that Trygve Haavelmo was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1989 for his “clarification of the foundations of the probabilistic theory of econometrics”. Because as Haavelmo (1944) (initiating a profound change in econometric theory in the 1930s, as recalled in Morgan’s Chapter 8 (1990)) showed, econometrics is fundamentally based on a probabilistic model, for two main reasons. First, the use of statistical quantities (or “measures”) such as means, standard errors and correlation coefficients for inferential purposes can only be justified if the process generating the data can be expressed in terms of a probabilistic model. Second, the probability approach is relatively general, and is particularly well suited to the analysis of “dependent” and “non-homogeneous” observations, as they are often found on economic data.We will then assume that there is a probabilistic space $(\Omega,\mathcal{F},\mathbb{P})$ such that observations $(y_i,\mathbf{x}_i)$ are seen as realizations of random variables $(Y_i, \mathbf{X}_i)$. In practice, however, we are not very interested in the joint law of the couple $(Y, \mathbf{X})$ : the law of $\mathbf{X}$ is unknown, and it is the law of Y conditional on $\mathbf{X}$ that will be interested in. In the following, we will note $x$ a single observation, $\mathbf{x}$ a vector of observations, $X$ a random variable, and $\mathbf{X}$ a random vector. Abusively, $\mathbf{X}$ may also designate the matrix of individual observations (denoted $\mathbf{x}_i$), depending on the context.

## Foundations of mathematical statistics

As recalled in Vapnik’s (1998) introduction, inference in parametric statistics is based on the following belief: the statistician knows the problem to be analyzed well, in particular, he knows the physical law that generates the stochastic properties of the data, and the function to be found is written via a finite number of parameters. To find these parameters, the maximum likelihood method is used. The purpose of the theory is to justify this approach (by discovering and describing its favorable properties). We will see that in learning, philosophy is very different, since we do not have a priori reliable information on the statistical law underlying the problem, nor even on the function we would like to approach (we will then propose methods to construct an approximation from the data at our disposal, as in (1998)). A “golden age” of parametric inference, from 1930 to 1960, laid the foundations for mathematical statistics, which can be found in all statistical textbooks, including today. As Vapnik (1998) states, the classical parametric paradigm is based on the following three beliefs:

1. To find a functional relationship from the data, the statistician is able to define a set of functions, linear in their parameters, that contain a good approximation of the desired function. The number of parameters describing this set is small.
2. The statistical law underlying the stochastic component of most real-life problems is the normal law. This belief has been supported by reference to the central limit theorem, which stipulates that under large conditions the sum of a large number of random variables is approximated by the normal law.
3. The maximum likelihood method is a good tool for estimating parameters.

In this section we will come back to the construction of the econometric paradigm, directly inspired by that of classical inferential statistics.

## Conditional laws and likelihood

Linear econometrics has been constructed under the assumption of individual data, which amounts to assuming independent variables $(Y_i, \mathbf{X}_i)$ (if it is possible to imagine temporal observations – then we would have a process $(Y_t, \mathbf{X}_t)$ – but we will not discuss time series here). More precisely, we will assume that, conditionally to the explanatory variables $\mathbf{X}_i$, the variables $Y_i$ are independent. We will also assume that these conditional laws remain in the same parametric family, but that the parameter is a function of $\mathbf{x}$. In the Gaussian linear model it is assumed that: $$(Y\vert \mathbf{X}=\mathbf{x})\overset{\mathcal{L}}{\sim}\mathcal{N}(\mu(\mathbf{x}),\sigma^2)~~~~ (1)$$where $\mu(\mathbf{x})=\beta_0+\mathbf{x}^T\mathbf{\beta}$ and $\mathbf{\beta}\in\mathbb{R}^{p}$.

It is usually called a ‘linear’ model since $\mathbb{E}[Y\vert \mathbf{X}=\mathbf{x}]=\beta_0+\mathbf{x}^T\mathbf{\beta}$ is a linear combination of covariates. It is said to be a homoscedastic model if $Var[Y|\mathbf{X}=\mathbf{x}]=\sigma^2$, where $\sigma^2$ is a positive constant. To estimate the parameters, the traditional approach is to use the Maximum Likelihood estimator, as initially suggested by Ronald Fisher. In the case of the Gaussian linear model, log-likelihood is written:  $$\log\mathcal{L}(\beta_0, \mathbf{\beta},\sigma^2\vert \mathbf{y},\mathbf{x}) = -\frac{n}{2}\log[2\pi\sigma^2] - \frac{1}{2\sigma^2}\sum_{i=1}^n (y_i-\beta_0-\mathbf{x}_i^T\mathbf{\beta})^2$$Note that the term on the right, measuring a distance between the data and the model, will be interpreted as deviance in generalized linear models. Then we will set: $$(\widehat{\beta}_0,\widehat{\mathbf{\beta}},\widehat{\sigma}^2)=\text{argmax}\left\lbrace\log\mathcal{L}(\beta_0, \mathbf{\beta},\sigma^2\vert \mathbf{y},\mathbf{x})\right\rbrace$$The maximum likelihood estimator is obtained by minimizing the sum of the error squares (the so-called “least squares” estimator) that we will find in the “machine learning” approach.

The first order conditions allow to find the normal equations, whose matrix writing is $\mathbf{X}^T[\mathbf{y}-\mathbf{X}\mathbf{\beta}]=\mathbf{0}$, which can also be written $(\mathbf{X}^T \mathbf{X})\mathbf{\beta}=\mathbf{X}^T \mathbf{y}$. If $\mathbf{X}$ is a full (column) rank matrix, then we find the classical estimator:$$\widehat{\mathbf{\beta}}=(\mathbf{X}^T\mathbf{X})^{-1}\mathbf{X}^T\mathbf{y}=\mathbf{\beta}+(\mathbf{X}^T\mathbf{X})^{-1}\mathbf{X}^{-1}\mathbf{\varepsilon}~~~(2)$$using residual-based writing (as often in econometrics), $y=\mathbf{x}^T\mathbf{\beta}+\varepsilon$. Gauss Markov’s theorem ensures that this estimator is the unbiased linear estimator with minimum variance. It can then be shown that $\widehat{\mathbf{\beta}}\sim\mathcal{N}(\mathbf{\beta},\sigma^2(\mathbf{X}^T\mathbf{X})^{-1})$, and in particular, if we simply need the first two moments : $$\mathbb{E}[\widehat{\mathbf{\beta}}]=\mathbf{\beta}~~~Var[\widehat{\mathbf{\beta}}]=\sigma^2 [\mathbf{X}^T\mathbf{X}]^{-1}$$In fact, the normality hypothesis makes it possible to make a link with mathematical statistics, but it is possible to construct this estimator given by equation (2) without that Gaussian assumption. Hence, if we assume that $Y|\mathbf{X}$ has the same distribution as $\mathbf{x}^T\mathbf{\beta}+\varepsilon$, where $\mathbb{E}[\varepsilon]=0$, $Var[\varepsilon]=\sigma^2$ and $Cov[X_j,\varepsilon]=0$ for all $j$, then $\widehat{\mathbf{\beta}}$ is an unbiased estimator of $\mathbf{\beta}$ with smallest variance among unbiased linear estimators. Furthermore, if we cannot get normality at finite distance, asymptotically this estimator is Gaussian, with $$\sqrt{n}(\widehat{\mathbf{\beta}}-\mathbf{\beta})\overset{\mathcal{L}}{\rightarrow}\mathcal{N}(\mathbf{0},\mathbf{\Sigma})$$as $n\rightarrow\infty$, for some matrix $\mathbf{\Sigma}$.
The condition of having a full rank $\mathbf{X}$ matrix can be (numerically) strong in large dimensions. If it is not satisfied, $(\mathbf{X}^T \mathbf{X})^{-1}\mathbf{X}^T$ does not exist. If $\mathbb{I}$ denotes the identity matrix, however, it should be noted that $(\mathbf{X}^T \mathbf{X}+\lambda\mathbb{I})^{-1}\mathbf{X}^T$ still exists, whatever $\lambda>0$. This estimator is called the ridge estimator of level \lambda (introduced in the 1960s by Hoerl (1962), and associated with a regularization studied by Tikhonov (1963)). This estimator naturally appears in a Bayesian econometric context.

## Residuals

It is not uncommon to introduce the linear model from the distribution of the residuals, as we mentioned earlier. Also, equation (1) is written as often: $$y_i=\beta_0+\mathbf{x}_i^T\mathbf{\beta}+\varepsilon_i~~~~(3)$$where $\varepsilon_i$’s are realizations of independent and identically distributed random variables (i.i.d.) from some $\mathcal{N}(0,\sigma^2)$ distribution. With a vector notation, we will write $\mathbf{\varepsilon}\overset{\mathcal{L}}{\sim}\mathcal{N}(\mathbf{0},\sigma^2\mathbb{I})$. The estimated residuals are defined as: $$\widehat{\varepsilon}_i =y_i-[\widehat{\beta}_0+\mathbf{x}_i^T\widehat{\mathbf{\beta}}]$$ Those (estimated) residuals are basic tools for diagnosing the relevance of the model.

An extension of the model described by equation (1) has been proposed to take into account a possible heteroscedastic character: $$(Y\vert \mathbf{X}=\mathbf{x})\overset{\mathcal{L}}{\sim}\mathcal{N}(\mu(\mathbf{x}),\sigma^2(\mathbf{x}))$$where $\sigma^2(\mathbf{x})$ is a positive function of the explanatory variables. This model can be rewritten as: $$y_i=\beta_0+\mathbf{x}_i^T\mathbf{\beta}+\sigma^2(\mathbf{x}_i)\cdot\varepsilon_i$$where residuals are always i.i.d., with unit variance, $$\varepsilon_i=\frac{y_i-[\beta_0+\mathbf{x}_i^T\mathbf{\beta}]}{\sigma(\mathbf{x}_i)}$$ While residuals based equations are popular in linear econometrics (when the dependent variable is continuous), it is no longer popular in counting models, or logistic regression.

However, writing using an error term (as in equation (3)) raises many questions about the representation of an economic relationship between two quantities. For example, it can be assumed that there is a relationship (linear to begin with) between the quantities of a traded good, $q$ and its price $p$. This allows us to imagine a supply equation$$q_i=\beta_0+\beta_1 p_i+u_i$$($u_i$ being an error term) where the quantity sold depends on the price, but in an equally legitimate way, one can imagine that the price depends on the quantity produced (what one could call a demand equation), $$p_i=\alpha_0+\alpha_1 q_i+v_i$$($v_i$ denoting another error term). Historically, the error term in equation (3) could be interpreted as an idiosyncratic error on the variable $y$, the so-called explanatory variables being assumed to be fixed, but this interpretation often makes the link between an economic relationship and a complicated economic model difficult, the economic theory speaking abstractly about a relationship between a magnitude, the econometric model imposing a specific shape (what magnitude is $y$ and what magnitude is $x$) as shown in more detail in Morgan (1990) Chapter 7.

(references mentioned above are online here). To be continued…

 This approach can be compared to structural econometrics, as presented for example in Kean (2010).

 Here, we will try to distinguish $\beta_0$, the intercept, and the other parameters $\mathbf{\beta}$, since they are considered differently in many extensions (e.g. regularization). Nevertheless, in many expressions $\mathbf{\beta}$ will denote the joint vector $(\beta_0, \mathbf{\beta})$, for general formulas, to avoid too heavy notations.

 In the sense that the difference between variance matrices is a positive matrix.

# Residuals from a logistic regression

I always claim that graphs are important in econometrics and statistics ! Of course, it is usually not that simple. Let me come back to a recent experience. A got an email from Sami yesterday, sending me a graph of residuals, and asking me what could be done with a graph of residuals, obtained from a logistic regression ? To get a better understanding, let us consider the following dataset (those are simulated data, but let us assume – as in practice – that we do not know the true model, this is why I decided to embed the code in some R source file)

> source("http://freakonometrics.free.fr/probit.R")
> reg=glm(Y~X1+X2,family=binomial)

If we use R’s diagnostic plot, the first one is the scatterplot of the residuals, against predicted values (the score actually)

> plot(reg,which=1)

we is simply

> plot(predict(reg),residuals(reg))
> abline(h=0,lty=2,col="grey") Why do we have those two lines of points ? Because we predict a probability for a variable taking values 0 or 1. If the tree value is 0, then we always predict more, and residuals have to be negative (the blue points) and if the true value is 1, then we underestimate, and residuals have to be positive (the red points). And of course, there is a monotone relationship… We can see more clearly what’s going on when we use colors

> plot(predict(reg),residuals(reg),col=c("blue","red")[1+Y])
> abline(h=0,lty=2,col="grey") Points are exactly on a smooth curve, as a function of the predicted value, Now, there is nothing from this graph. If we want to understand, we have to run a local regression, to see what’s going on,

> lines(lowess(predict(reg),residuals(reg)),col="black",lwd=2) This is exactly what we have with the first function. But with this local regression, we do not get confidence interval. Can’t we pretend, on the graph about that the plain dark line is very close to the dotted line ?

> rl=lm(residuals(reg)~bs(predict(reg),8))
> #rl=loess(residuals(reg)~predict(reg))
> y=predict(rl,se=TRUE)
> segments(predict(reg),y$fit+2*y$se.fit,predict(reg),y$fit-2*y$se.fit,col="green") Yes, we can.And even if we have a guess that something can be done, what would this graph suggest ?

Actually, that graph is probably not the only way to look at the residuals. What not plotting them against the two explanatory variables ? For instance, if we plot the residuals against the second one, we get

> plot(X2,residuals(reg),col=c("blue","red")[1+Y])
> lines(lowess(X2,residuals(reg)),col="black",lwd=2)
> lines(lowess(X2[Y==0],residuals(reg)[Y==0]),col="blue")
> lines(lowess(X2[Y==1],residuals(reg)[Y==1]),col="red")
> abline(h=0,lty=2,col="grey") The graph is similar to the one we had earlier, and against, there is not much to say, If we now look at the relationship with the first one, it starts to be more interesting,

> plot(X1,residuals(reg),col=c("blue","red")[1+Y])
> lines(lowess(X1,residuals(reg)),col="black",lwd=2)
> lines(lowess(X1[Y==0],residuals(reg)[Y==0]),col="blue")
> lines(lowess(X1[Y==1],residuals(reg)[Y==1]),col="red")
> abline(h=0,lty=2,col="grey") since we can clearly identify a quadratic effect. This graph suggests that we should run a regression on the square of the first variable. And it can be seen as a significant effect, Now, if we run a regression including this quadratic effect, what do we have,

> reg=glm(Y~X1+I(X1^2)+X2,family=binomial)
> plot(predict(reg),residuals(reg),col=c("blue","red")[1+Y])
> lines(lowess(predict(reg)[Y==0],residuals(reg)[Y==0]),col="blue")
> lines(lowess(predict(reg)[Y==1],residuals(reg)[Y==1]),col="red")
> lines(lowess(predict(reg),residuals(reg)),col="black",lwd=2)
> abline(h=0,lty=2,col="grey") Actually, it looks like we back where we were initially…. So what is my point ? my point is that

• graphs (yes, plural) can be used to see what might go wrong, to get more intuition about possible non linear transformation
• graphs are not everything, and they never be perfect ! Here, in theory, the plain line should be a straight line, horizontal. But we also want a model as simple as possible. So, at some stage, we should probably give up, and rely on statistical tests, and confidence intervals. Yes, an almost flat line can be interpreted as flat.

# Quels résidus et quelle loi simuler ? Suite à une question sur les résidus, je vais essayer de prendre deux minutes pour reprendre un point que je n’avais pas abordé en cours, faute de temps. Les résidus les plus intéressants en provisionnement (et dans les GLM) sont les résidus de Pearson, Mais il existe également des résidus dits ajustés, permettant de prendre en compte le fait que le nombre de paramètres est ici relativement grand, ramené au nombre d’observations. On pose alors A première vue, utiliser l’un ou l’autre devrait donner la même chose si l’on génère des pseudo-triangles, puisque dans un cas, on utiliserait et dans l’autre Bref, multiplier par une constante pour ensuite diviser par la même constante, ça revient au même. Sauf qu’il peut sembler légitime de poser (on reviendra là dessus tout à l’heure). En attendant, voilà nos deux résidus

> (E=residuals(regp,"pearson"))
1             2             3             4
9.488238e-01  2.404895e-02  1.168421e-01 -1.082940e+00
5             6             7             8
1.302749e-01 -1.007348e-13 -1.128013e+00  2.773332e-01
9            10            11            13
5.669707e-02  8.919633e-01 -2.110748e-01 -1.533031e+00
14            15            16            19
-2.213449e+00 -1.024162e+00  4.237393e+00 -4.899687e-01
20            21            25            26
7.929194e-01 -2.972380e-01 -4.275912e-01  4.140426e-01
31
-6.202125e-15
> n=sum(is.na(Y)==FALSE)
> k=ncol(PAID)+nrow(PAID)-1
> (R=residuals(regp,"pearson")*sqrt(n/(n-k)))
1             2             3             4
1.374976e+00  3.485024e-02  1.693203e-01 -1.569329e+00
5             6             7             8
1.887862e-01 -1.459787e-13 -1.634646e+00  4.018940e-01
9            10            11            13
8.216186e-02  1.292578e+00 -3.058764e-01 -2.221573e+00
14            15            16            19
-3.207593e+00 -1.484151e+00  6.140566e+00 -7.100321e-01
20            21            25            26
1.149049e+00 -4.307387e-01 -6.196386e-01  6.000048e-01
31
-8.987734e-15

L’autre point sur lequel je voulais revenir sur les simulations, est que la loi de Poisson n’est peut-être pas adaptée pour simuler des scénarios de paiements futurs. En effet, si on fait une régression quasipoisson, on voit que le paramètre de surdispersion n’est pas négligeable,

> regqp=glm(Y~as.factor(D)+as.factor(A),
> summary(regqp)

Call:
glm(formula = Y ~ as.factor(D) + as.factor(A),
data = base)

Deviance Residuals:
Min       1Q   Median       3Q      Max
-2.3426  -0.4996   0.0000   0.2770   3.9355

Coefficients:
Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)
(Intercept)       8.05697    0.02769 290.995  < 2e-16 ***
as.factor(D)2    -0.96513    0.02427 -39.772 2.41e-12 ***
as.factor(D)3    -4.14853    0.11805 -35.142 8.26e-12 ***
as.factor(D)4    -5.10499    0.22548 -22.641 6.36e-10 ***
as.factor(D)5    -5.94962    0.43338 -13.728 8.17e-08 ***
as.factor(D)6    -5.01244    0.39050 -12.836 1.55e-07 ***
as.factor(A)2002  0.06440    0.03731   1.726 0.115054
as.factor(A)2003  0.20242    0.03615   5.599 0.000228 ***
as.factor(A)2004  0.31175    0.03535   8.820 4.96e-06 ***
as.factor(A)2005  0.44407    0.03451  12.869 1.51e-07 ***
as.factor(A)2006  0.50271    0.03711  13.546 9.28e-08 ***
---
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

Dispersion parameter for quasipoisson family taken to be 3.18623

Null deviance: 46695.269  on 20  degrees of freedom
Residual deviance:    30.214  on 10  degrees of freedom
(15 observations deleted due to missingness)
AIC: NA

Number of Fisher Scoring iterations: 4

On peut alors envisager de simuler non pas des lois de Poisson, mais des lois quasipoissons, en reprenant un vieux code,

> rqpois = function(n, lambda, phi, roundvalue = TRUE) {
+ b = phi
+  a = lambda/phi
+ r = rgamma(n, shape = a, scale = b)
+  if(roundvalue){r=round(r)}
+ return(r)
+ }

A partir de ces deux remarques, on peut reprendre le code qui permettait de générer des scénarios de paiements pour les années futures,

> Yp=predict(regp,type="response",newdata=base)
> Rs=rep(NA,20000)
> for(s in 1:20000){
+ serreur=sample(erreur,
+ size=36,replace=TRUE)
+ E=matrix(serreur,6,6)
+ sY=matrix(Yp,6,6)+E*sqrt(matrix(Yp,6,6))
+ sbase=data.frame(sY=as.vector(sY),D,A)
+ sbase\$sY[is.na(Y)==TRUE]=NA
+ sreg=glm(sY~as.factor(D)+as.factor(A),
+ sYp=predict(sreg,type="response",
+ newdata=sbase)
+ sYpscenario=rqpois(36,sYp,phi=3.18623)
+ Rs[s]=sum(sYpscenario[is.na(Y)==TRUE])
+ }

si on regarde la densité de la distribution des paiements futurs, on obtient,

plot(density(Rs)) avec en bleu la distribution obtenue sur les résidus de Pearson brut, et en simulant une loi de Poisson, et en rouge la distribution des provisions avec les deux modifications. On observe clairement que les quantiles (par exemple) ont fortement changé. On peut le voir encore plus précisément sur un box-plot Si on revient cinq minutes sur ce qu’on vient de faire. Dans le premier rappelons que l’on a besoin d’utiliser, pour prédire les paiements futurs, que (avec la filtration correspondant à la partie supérieure du triangle disponible), i.e. Comme on utilise un modèle de Poisson, on suppose aussi que i.e. c’est à dire que Il faut avoir des résidus centrés et de variance unitaire. A première vue, c’est le cas pour nos résidus de Pearson (à peu près),

> mean(residuals(regp,"pearson"))
 -0.02462518
> sd(residuals(regp,"pearson"))
 1.261934

sauf que l’estimateur de la variance est biaisé. Certes, classiquement, l’estimateur est basé sur une normalisation par un facteur (classique en statistique quand on possède observations)

> sqrt(sum((residuals(regp,"pearson")-
+ mean(residuals(regp,"pearson")))^2)/
+ (length(residuals(regp,"pearson"))-1))
 1.261934

Sauf qu’ici on ne perd pas un degré de liberté (remplacer l’espérance des observations par leur moyenne empirique): en régression, il faut corriger par le nombre de variables explicatives. Et donc, pour avoir un estimateur sans biais de la variance de nos résidus, il faut corriger par un facteur . D’où l’utilisation des résidus dits ajustés afin d’avoir des résidus de variance (vraiment) unitaire.
Pour le second point, on utilise le fait qu’en pratique, la dispersion des paiements est plus grande que ce que donnerait un modèle de Poisson. Et il convient d’en tenir compte dans nos simulations. En l’occurrence, on veut que , mais aussi que . On a vu que le paramètre de surdispersion ne pouvait être supposé unitaire. On a alors le choix, entre simuler une loi Gamma de paramètres et ou bien simuler une loi binomiale négative, de moyenne , et de paramètre de surdispersion telle que la variance s’écrive Aussi, on prend alors que Avec ces méthodes, on obtient quelque chose… qui est programmé sous R,

> BootChainLadder(PAID,10000,"od.pois")
BootChainLadder(Triangle = PAID, R = 10000,
process.distr = "od.pois")

Latest Mean Ultimate Mean IBNR SD IBNR IBNR 75% IBNR 95%
1  4,456         4,456       0.0     0.0        0        0
2  4,730         4,752      22.2    12.2       28       44
3  5,420         5,456      35.5    15.2       43       64
4  6,020         6,086      65.7    19.8       78      102
5  6,794         6,946     151.9    28.7      170      202
6  5,217         7,364   2,147.4   111.0    2,218    2,339

Totals
Latest:         32,637
Mean Ultimate:  35,060
Mean IBNR:       2,423
SD IBNR:           132
Total IBNR 75%:  2,506
Total IBNR 95%:  2,653

> quantile(Rs,c(.75,.95))
75%  95%
2509 2653

et qui donne les mêmes résultats que ce qu’on vient de reprogrammer…