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Title A Bayesian analysis of small area probabilities under a constraint
Source Survey Methodology, 37, 2, pp. 137-152
Year 2011
Access date 31.03.2012

In many sample surveys there are items requesting binary response (e.g., obese, not obese) from a number of small areas. Inference is required about the probability for a positive response (e.g., obese) in each area, the probability being the same for all individuals in each area and different across areas. Because of the sparseness of the data within areas, direct estimators are not reliable, and there is a need to use data from other areas to improve inference for a specific area. Essentially, a priori the areas are assumed to be similar, and a hierarchical Bayesian model, the standard beta-binomial model, is a natural choice. The innovation is that a practitioner may have much-needed additional prior information about a linear combination of the probabilities. For example, a weighted average of the probabilities is a parameter, and information can be elicited about this parameter, thereby making the Bayesian paradigm appropriate. We have modified the standard beta-binomial model for small areas to incorporate the prior information on the linear combination of the probabilities, which we call a constraint. Thus, there are three cases. The practitioner (a) does not specify a constraint, (b) specifies a constraint and the parameter completely, and (c) specifies a constraint and information which can be used to construct a prior distribution for the parameter. The griddy Gibbs sampler is used to fit the models. To illustrate our method, we use an example on obesity of children in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in which the small areas are formed by crossing school (middle, high), ethnicity (white, black, Mexican) and gender (male, female). We use a simulation study to assess some of the statistical features of our method. We have shown that the gain in precision beyond (a) is in the order with (b) larger than (c).

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Year of publication2011
Bibliographic typeJournal article