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Estimating log models: to transform or not to transform?

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  • Manning, Willard G.
  • Mullahy, John

Abstract

Data on health care expenditures, length of stay, utilization of health services, consumption of unhealthy commodities, etc. are typically characterized by: (a) nonnegative outcomes; (b) nontrivial fractions of zero outcomes in the population (and sample); and (c) positively-skewed distributions of the nonzero realizations. Similar data structures are encountered in labor economics as well. This paper provides simulation-based evidence on the finite-sample behavior of two sets of estimators designed to look at the effect of a set of covariates x on the expected outcome, E(y|x), under a range of data problems encountered in every day practice: generalized linear models (GLM), a subset of which can simply be viewed as differentially weighted nonlinear least-squares estimators, and those derived from least-squares estimators for the ln(y). We consider the first- and second- order behavior of these candidate estimators under alternative assumptions on the data generating processes. Our results indicate that the choice of estimator for models of ln(E(x|y)) can have major implications for empirical results if the estimator is not designed to deal with the specific data generating mechanism. Garden-variety statistical problems - skewness, kurtosis, and heteroscedasticity - can lead to an appreciable bias for some estimators or appreciable losses in precision for others.
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Suggested Citation

  • Manning, Willard G. & Mullahy, John, 2001. "Estimating log models: to transform or not to transform?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 461-494, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:20:y:2001:i:4:p:461-494
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    1. Gourieroux, Christian & Monfort, Alain & Trognon, Alain, 1984. "Pseudo Maximum Likelihood Methods: Applications to Poisson Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 701-720, May.
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    5. Manning, W. G. & Duan, N. & Rogers, W. H., 1987. "Monte Carlo evidence on the choice between sample selection and two-part models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 59-82, May.
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    7. Andrew M. Jones, 2012. "health econometrics," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics,, Palgrave Macmillan.
    8. Kennedy, Peter E, 1981. "Estimation with Correctly Interpreted Dummy Variables in Semilogarithmic Equations [The Interpretation of Dummy Variables in Semilogarithmic Equations]," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 801-801, September.
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    JEL classification:

    • C2 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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