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Accurate inference in negative binomial regression

Negative binomial regression is commonly employed to analyze overdispersed count data. With small to moderate sample sizes, the maximum likelihood estimator of the dispersion parameter may be subject to a significant bias, that in turn affects inference on mean parameters. This paper proposes inference for negative binomial regression based on adjustments of the score function aimed at mean and median bias reduction. The resulting estimating equations are similar to those available for improved inference in generalized linear models and, in particular, can be solved using a suitable extension of iterative weighted least squares. Simulation studies show a remarkable performance of the new methods, which are also found to solve in many cases numerical problems of maximum likelihood estimates. The methods are illustrated and evaluated using two case studies: an Ames salmonella assay data set and data on epileptic seizures. Inference based on adjusted scores turns out to be generally preferable to explicit bias correction.


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