Modelling Clustered Heterogeneity: Fixed Effects, Random Effects and Mixtures

Research paper by Gerhard Tutz, Margret‐Ruth Oelker

Indexed on: 09 Mar '16Published on: 05 Jan '16Published in: International Statistical Review


Although each statistical unit on which measurements are taken is unique, typically there is not enough information available to account totally for its uniqueness. Therefore, heterogeneity among units has to be limited by structural assumptions. One classical approach is to use random effects models, which assume that heterogeneity can be described by distributional assumptions. However, inference may depend on the assumed mixing distribution, and it is assumed that the random effects and the observed covariates are independent. An alternative considered here is fixed effect models, which let each unit has its own parameter. They are quite flexible but suffer from the large number of parameters. The structural assumption made here is that there are clusters of units that share the same effects. It is shown how clusters can be identified by tailored regularised estimators. Moreover, it is shown that the regularised estimates compete well with estimates for the random effects model, even if the latter is the data generating model. They dominate if clusters are present.