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Default Priors and Predictive Performance in Bayesian Model Averaging, with Application to Growth Determinants

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  • Theo Eicher
  • Chris Papageogiou
  • Adrian E Raftery

Abstract

Economic growth has been a showcase of model uncertainty, given the many competing theories and candidate regressors that have been proposed to explain growth. Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) addresses model uncertainty as part of the empirical strategy, but its implementation is subject to the choice of priors: the priors for the parameters in each model, and the prior over the model space. For a well-known growth dataset, we show that model choice can be sensitive to the prior specification, but that economic significance (model-averaged inference about regression coefficients) is quite robust to the choice of prior. We provide a procedure to assess priors in terms of their predictive performance. The Unit Information Prior, combined with a uniform model prior outperformed other popular priors in the growth dataset and in simulated data. It also identified the richest set of growth determinants, supporting several new growth theories. We also show that there is a tradeoff between model and parameter priors, so that the results of reducing prior expected model size and increasing prior parameter variance are similar. Our branch-and-bound algorithm for implementing BMA was faster than the alternative coin flip importance sampling and MC3 algorithms, and was also more successful in identifying the best model.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Washington, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number UWEC-2007-25-P.

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Date of creation: Aug 2007
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Applied Econometrics, Volume
Handle: RePEc:udb:wpaper:uwec-2007-25-p

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  1. Ley, Eduardo & Steel, Mark F. J., 2006. "Jointness in Bayesian variable selection with applications to growth regression," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4063, The World Bank.
  2. Carmen Fernandez & E Ley & Mark F J Steel, 2004. "Benchmark priors for Bayesian models averaging," ESE Discussion Papers 66, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  3. Gernot Doppelhofer & Ronald I. Miller & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2000. "Determinants of Long-Term Growth: A Bayesian Averaging of Classical Estimates (BACE) Approach," NBER Working Papers 7750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. William A. Brock & Steven N. Durlauf & Kenneth D. West, 2003. "Policy Evaluation in Uncertain Economic Environments," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 235-322.
  5. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
  6. Klein, Roger W & Brown, Stephen J, 1984. "Model Selection When There Is "Minimal" Prior Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(5), pages 1291-1312, September.
  7. P. J. Brown & M. Vannucci & T. Fearn, 2002. "Bayes model averaging with selection of regressors," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 64(3), pages 519-536.
  8. Carmen Fernandez & Eduardo Ley & Mark Steel, 2001. "Model uncertainty in cross-country growth regressions," Econometrics 0110002, EconWPA.
  9. Steven N. Durlauf & Andros KOURTELLOS & Chih Ming Tan, 2007. "Are Any Growth Theories Robust?," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0703, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  10. Johnson, Paul & Durlauf, Steven N & Temple, Johnathan R. W., 2004. "Growth Econometrics," Vassar College Department of Economics Working Paper Series 61, Vassar College Department of Economics.
    • Durlauf, Steven N. & Johnson, Paul A. & Temple, Jonathan R.W., 2005. "Growth Econometrics," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 8, pages 555-677 Elsevier.
  11. Steven N. Durlauf & Andros Kourtellos & Chih Ming Tan, 2006. "Is God in the Details? A Reexamination of the Role of Religion in Economic Growth," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0613, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  12. Mankiw, N Gregory & Romer, David & Weil, David N, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-37, May.
  13. Chris Papageorgiou & Winford H. Masanjala, . "Initial Conditions, European Colonialism and Africa's Growth," Departmental Working Papers 2006-01, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
  14. Ley, Eduardo & Steel, Mark F. J., 2007. "On the effect of prior assumptions in Bayesian model averaging with applications to growth regression," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4238, The World Bank.
  15. Liang, Feng & Paulo, Rui & Molina, German & Clyde, Merlise A. & Berger, Jim O., 2008. "Mixtures of g Priors for Bayesian Variable Selection," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 103, pages 410-423, March.
  16. Gneiting, Tilmann & Raftery, Adrian E., 2007. "Strictly Proper Scoring Rules, Prediction, and Estimation," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 102, pages 359-378, March.
  17. James E. Matheson & Robert L. Winkler, 1976. "Scoring Rules for Continuous Probability Distributions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 22(10), pages 1087-1096, June.
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