Higher Order Targeted Maximum Likelihood Estimation

by   Mark van der Laan, et al.

Asymptotic efficiency of targeted maximum likelihood estimators (TMLE) of target features of the data distribution relies on a a second order remainder being asymptotically negligible. In previous work we proposed a nonparametric MLE termed Highly Adaptive Lasso (HAL) which parametrizes the relevant functional of the data distribution in terms of a multivariate real valued cadlag function that is assumed to have finite variation norm. We showed that the HAL-MLE converges in Kullback-Leibler dissimilarity at a rate n-1/3 up till logn factors. Therefore, by using HAL as initial density estimator in the TMLE, the resulting HAL-TMLE is an asymptotically efficient estimator only assuming that the relevant nuisance functions of the data density are cadlag and have finite variation norm. However, in finite samples, the second order remainder can dominate the sampling distribution so that inference based on asymptotic normality would be anti-conservative. In this article we propose a new higher order TMLE, generalizing the regular first order TMLE. We prove that it satisfies an exact linear expansion, in terms of efficient influence functions of sequentially defined higher order fluctuations of the target parameter, with a remainder that is a k+1th order remainder. As a consequence, this k-th order TMLE allows statistical inference only relying on the k+1th order remainder being negligible. We also provide a rationale for the higher order TMLE that it will be superior to the first order TMLE by (iteratively) locally minimizing the exact finite sample remainder of the first order TMLE. The second order TMLE is demonstrated for nonparametric estimation of the integrated squared density and for the treatment specific mean outcome. We also provide an initial simulation study for the second order TMLE of the treatment specific mean confirming the theoretical analysis.



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