VC-BART: Bayesian trees for varying coefficients

03/13/2020
by   Sameer K. Deshpande, et al.
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The linear varying coefficient (VC) model generalizes the conventional linear model by allowing the additive effect of each covariate on the outcome to vary as a function of additional effect modifiers. While there are many existing procedures for VC modeling with a single scalar effect modifier (often assumed to be time), there has, until recently, been comparatively less development for settings with multivariate modifiers. Unfortunately, existing state-of-the-art procedures that can accommodate multivariate modifiers typically make restrictive structural assumptions about the covariate effect functions or require intensive problem-specific hand-tuning that scales poorly to large datasets. In response, we propose VC-BART, which estimates the covariate effect functions in a VC model using Bayesian Additive Regression Trees (BART). On several synthetic and real-world data sets, we demonstrate that, with simple default hyperparameter settings, VC-BART displays covariate effect recovery performance superior to state-of-the-art VC modeling techniques and predictive performance on par with more flexible but less interpretable nonparametric regression procedures. We further demonstrate the theoretical near-optimality of VC-BART by synthesizing recent theoretical results about the VC model and BART to derive posterior concentration rates in settings with independent and correlated errors. An R package implementing VC-BART is available at https://github.com/skdeshpande91/VCBART

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