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- Management science
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We revisit Markowitz’s mean-variance portfolio selection model by considering a distributionally robust version, in which the region of distributional uncertainty is around the empirical measure and the discrepancy between probability measures is dictated by the Wasserstein distance. We reduce this problem into an empirical variance minimization problem with an additional regularization term. Moreover, we extend the recently developed inference methodology to our setting in order to select the size of the distributional uncertainty as well as the associated robust target return rate in a data-driven way. Finally, we report extensive back-testing results on S&P 500 that compare the performance of our model with those of several well-known models including the Fama–French and Black–Litterman models. This paper was accepted by David Simchi-Levi, finance.more » « less
Linear mixed‐effects models are powerful tools for analysing complex datasets with repeated or clustered observations, a common data structure in ecology and evolution. Mixed‐effects models involve complex fitting procedures and make several assumptions, in particular about the distribution of residual and random effects. Violations of these assumptions are common in real datasets, yet it is not always clear how much these violations matter to accurate and unbiased estimation.
Here we address the consequences of violations in distributional assumptions and the impact of missing random effect components on model estimates. In particular, we evaluate the effects of skewed, bimodal and heteroscedastic random effect and residual variances, of missing random effect terms and of correlated fixed effect predictors. We focus on bias and prediction error on estimates of fixed and random effects.
Model estimates were usually robust to violations of assumptions, with the exception of slight upward biases in estimates of random effect variance if the generating distribution was bimodal but was modelled by Gaussian error distributions. Further, estimates for (random effect) components that violated distributional assumptions became less precise but remained unbiased. However, this particular problem did not affect other parameters of the model. The same pattern was found for strongly correlated fixed effects, which led to imprecise, but unbiased estimates, with uncertainty estimates reflecting imprecision.
Unmodelled sources of random effect variance had predictable effects on variance component estimates. The pattern is best viewed as a cascade of hierarchical grouping factors. Variances trickle down the hierarchy such that missing higher‐level random effect variances pool at lower levels and missing lower‐level and crossed random effect variances manifest as residual variance.
Overall, our results show remarkable robustness of mixed‐effects models that should allow researchers to use mixed‐effects models even if the distributional assumptions are objectively violated. However, this does not free researchers from careful evaluation of the model. Estimates that are based on data that show clear violations of key assumptions should be treated with caution because individual datasets might give highly imprecise estimates, even if they will be unbiased on average across datasets.
We study statistical inference and distributionally robust solution methods for stochastic optimization problems, focusing on confidence intervals for optimal values and solutions that achieve exact coverage asymptotically. We develop a generalized empirical likelihood framework—based on distributional uncertainty sets constructed from nonparametric f-divergence balls—for Hadamard differentiable functionals, and in particular, stochastic optimization problems. As consequences of this theory, we provide a principled method for choosing the size of distributional uncertainty regions to provide one- and two-sided confidence intervals that achieve exact coverage. We also give an asymptotic expansion for our distributionally robust formulation, showing how robustification regularizes problems by their variance. Finally, we show that optimizers of the distributionally robust formulations we study enjoy (essentially) the same consistency properties as those in classical sample average approximations. Our general approach applies to quickly mixing stationary sequences, including geometrically ergodic Harris recurrent Markov chains.more » « less
The generalization ability of machine learning models degrades significantly when the test distribution shifts away from the training distribution. We investigate the problem of training models that are robust to shifts caused by changes in the distribution of class-priors or group-priors. The presence of skewed training priors can often lead to the models overfitting to spurious features. Unlike existing methods, which optimize for either the worst or the average performance over classes or groups, our work is motivated by the need for finer control over the robustness properties of the model. We present an extremely lightweight post-hoc approach that performs scaling adjustments to predictions from a pre-trained model, with the goal of minimizing a distributionally robust loss around a chosen target distribution. These adjustments are computed by solving a constrained optimization problem on a validation set and applied to the model during test time. Our constrained optimization objective is inspired from a natural notion of robustness to controlled distribution shifts. Our method comes with provable guarantees and empirically makes a strong case for distributional robust post-hoc classifiers. An empirical implementation is available at https://github.com/weijiaheng/Drops.more » « less
Empirical risk minimization (ERM) is known to be non-robust in practice to distributional shift where the training and the test distributions are different. A suite of approaches, such as importance weighting, and variants of distributionally robust optimization (DRO), have been proposed to solve this problem. But a line of recent work has empirically shown that these approaches do not significantly improve over ERM in real applications with distribution shift. The goal of this work is to obtain a comprehensive theoretical understanding of this intriguing phenomenon. We first posit the class of Generalized Reweighting (GRW) algorithms, as a broad category of approaches that iteratively update model parameters based on iterative reweighting of the training samples. We show that when overparameterized models are trained under GRW, the resulting models are close to that obtained by ERM. We also show that adding small regularization which does not greatly affect the empirical training accuracy does not help. Together, our results show that a broad category of what we term GRW approaches are not able to achieve distributionally robust generalization. Our work thus has the following sobering takeaway: to make progress towards distributionally robust generalization, we either have to develop non-GRW approaches, or perhaps devise novel classification/regression loss functions that are adapted to GRW approaches.more » « less