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On the dangers of modelling through continuous distributions: A Bayesian perspective

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Abstract

We point out that Bayesian inference on the basis of a given sample is not always possible with continuous sampling models, even under a proper prior. The reason for this paradoxical situation is explained, and linked to the fact that any dataset consisting of point observations has zero probability under a continuous sampling distribution. A number of examples, both with proper and improper priors, highlight the issues involved. A solution is proposed through the use of set observations, which take into account the precision with which the data were recorded. Use of a Gibbs sampler makes the solution practically feasible. The case of independent sampling from (possibly skewed) scale mixtures of Normals is analysed in detail for a location-scale model with a commonly used noninformative prior. For Student-t sampling with unrestricted degrees of freedom the usual inference, based on point observations, is shown to be precluded whenever the sample contains repeated observations. We show that Bayesian inference based on set observations, however, is possible and illustrate this by an application to a skewed dataset of stock returns.

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  • Carmen Fernandez & Mark F J Steel, 1998. "On the dangers of modelling through continuous distributions: A Bayesian perspective," ESE Discussion Papers 22, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  • Handle: RePEc:edn:esedps:22
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    1. Eric Jacquier & Nicholas G. Polson & Peter Rossi, "undated". "Stochastic Volatility: Univariate and Multivariate Extensions," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 19-95, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
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    4. Geweke, J, 1993. "Bayesian Treatment of the Independent Student- t Linear Model," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(S), pages 19-40, Suppl. De.
    5. Andrew Harvey & Esther Ruiz & Neil Shephard, 1994. "Multivariate Stochastic Variance Models," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(2), pages 247-264.
    6. Roberts, G. O. & Smith, A. F. M., 1994. "Simple conditions for the convergence of the Gibbs sampler and Metropolis-Hastings algorithms," Stochastic Processes and their Applications, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 207-216, February.
    7. Ball, Clifford A, 1988. " Estimation Bias Induced by Discrete Security Prices," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(4), pages 841-865, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cristiano Villa, 2017. "Bayesian estimation of the threshold of a generalised pareto distribution for heavy-tailed observations," TEST: An Official Journal of the Spanish Society of Statistics and Operations Research, Springer;Sociedad de Estadística e Investigación Operativa, vol. 26(1), pages 95-118, March.
    2. repec:eee:ecosta:v:3:y:2017:i:c:p:73-88 is not listed on IDEAS

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