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Robust Bayesian variable selection with sub-harmonic priors

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Abstract:

This paper studies Bayesian variable selection in linear models with general spherically symmetric error distributions. We propose sub-harmonic priors which arise as a class of mixtures of Zellner's g-priors for which the Bayes factors are independent of the underlying error distribution, as long as it is in the spherically symmetric class. Because of this invariance to spherically symmetric error distribution, we refer to our method as a robust Bayesian variable selection method. We demonstrate that our Bayes factors have model selection consistency and are coherent. We also develop Laplace approximations to Bayes factors for a number of recently studied mixtures of g-priors that have recently appeared in the literature (including our own) for Gaussian errors. These approximations, in each case, are given by the Gaussian Bayes factor based on BIC times a simple rational function of the prior's hyper-parameters and the R^2's for the respective models. We also extend model selection consistency for several g-prior based Bayes factor methods for Gaussian errors to the entire class of spherically symmetric error distributions. Additionally we demonstrate that our class of sub-harmonic priors are the only ones within a large class of mixtures of g-priors studied in the literature which are robust in our sense. A simulation study and an analysis of two real data sets indicates good performance of our robust Bayes factors relative to BIC and to other mixture of g-prior based methods.

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