Model Misspecification in ABC (Consequences and Diagnostics)

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We analyze the behavior of approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) when the model generating the simulated data differs from the actual data generating process; i.e., when the data simulator in ABC is misspecified. We demonstrate both theoretically and in simple, but practically relevant, examples that when the model is misspecified different versions of ABC can yield substantially different results. Our theoretical results demonstrate that even though the model is misspecified, under regularity conditions, the accept/reject ABC approach concentrates posterior mass on an appropriately defined pseudo-true parameter value. However, under model misspecification the ABC posterior does not yield credible sets with valid frequentist coverage and has non-standard asymptotic behavior. In addition, we examine the theoretical behavior of the popular local regression adjustment to ABC under model misspecification and demonstrate that this approach concentrates posterior mass on a completely different pseudo-true value than accept/reject ABC. Using our theoretical results, we suggest two approaches to diagnose model misspecification in ABC. All theoretical results and diagnostics are illustrated in a simple running example.

David T. Frazier
DECRA Fellow and Associate Professor in Econometrics and Statistics

My research interests include simulation-based statistical theory and inference, approximate Bayesian analysis, forecasting and scoring rules.