Forecasting Regional Employment in Germany by Means of Neural Networks and Genetic Algorithms
The aim of this paper is to develop and apply Neural Network (NN) models in order to forecast regional employment patterns in Germany. NNs are statistical tools based on learning algorithms with a distribution over a large amount of quantitative data. NNs are increasingly deployed in the social sciences as a useful technique for interpolating data when a clear specification of the functional relationship between dependent and independent variables is not available. In addition to traditional NN models, a further set of NN models will be developed in this paper, incorporating Genetic Algorithm (GA) techniques in order to detect the networks’ structure. GAs are computer-aided optimization tools that imitate natural biological evolution in order to find the solution that best fits the given case. Our experiments employ a data set consisting of a panel of 439 districts distributed over the former West and East Germany,. The West and East data sets have different time horizons, as employment information by district is available from 1987 and 1993 for West and East Germany, respectively. Separate West and East models are tested, before carrying out a unified experiment on the full data set for Germany. The above models are then evaluated by means of several statistical indicators, in order to test their ability to provide out- of-sample forecasts. A comparison between traditional and GAenhanced models is ultimately proposed. The results show that the West and East NN models perform with different degrees of precision, because of the different data sets’ time horizons.
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