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On measuring the variability of small area estimators under a basic area level model


  • Gauri Sankar Datta
  • J. N. K. Rao
  • David Daniel Smith


In this paper based on a basic area level model we obtain second-order accurate approximations to the mean squared error of model-based small area estimators, using the Fay & Herriot (1979) iterative method of estimating the model variance based on weighted residual sum of squares. We also obtain mean squared error estimators unbiased to second order. Based on simulations, we compare the finite-sample performance of our mean squared error estimators with those based on method-of-moments, maximum likelihood and residual maximum likelihood estimators of the model variance. Our results suggest that the Fay--Herriot method performs better, in terms of relative bias of mean squared error estimators, than the other methods across different combinations of number of areas, pattern of sampling variances and distribution of small area effects. We also derive a noninformative prior on the model parameters for which the posterior variance of a small area mean is second-order unbiased for the mean squared error. The posterior variance based on such a prior possesses both Bayesian and frequentist interpretations. Copyright 2005, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Gauri Sankar Datta & J. N. K. Rao & David Daniel Smith, 2005. "On measuring the variability of small area estimators under a basic area level model," Biometrika, Biometrika Trust, vol. 92(1), pages 183-196, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:biomet:v:92:y:2005:i:1:p:183-196

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