Statistical Inference

Start Date: 11/05/2018

Course Type: Common Course

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Statistical inference is the process of drawing conclusions about populations or scientific truths from data. There are many modes of performing inference including statistical modeling, data oriented strategies and explicit use of designs and randomization in analyses. Furthermore, there are broad theories (frequentists, Bayesian, likelihood, design based, …) and numerous complexities (missing data, observed and unobserved confounding, biases) for performing inference. A practitioner can often be left in a debilitating maze of techniques, philosophies and nuance. This course presents the fundamentals of inference in a practical approach for getting things done. After taking this course, students will understand the broad directions of statistical inference and use this information for making informed choices in analyzing data.

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Statistical inference is the process of drawing conclusions about populations or scientific truths f

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Statistical inference The conclusion of a statistical inference is a statistical proposition. Some common forms of statistical proposition are the following:
Statistical inference The topics below are usually included in the area of statistical inference.
Statistical inference Statistical inference makes propositions about a population, using data drawn from the population with some form of sampling. Given a hypothesis about a population, for which we wish to draw inferences, statistical inference consists of (firstly) selecting a statistical model of the process that generates the data and (secondly) deducing propositions from the model.
Statistical inference Any statistical inference requires some assumptions. A statistical model is a set of assumptions concerning the generation of the observed data and similar data. Descriptions of statistical models usually emphasize the role of population quantities of interest, about which we wish to draw inference. Descriptive statistics are typically used as a preliminary step before more formal inferences are drawn.
Inference Statistical inference uses mathematics to draw conclusions in the presence of uncertainty. This generalizes deterministic reasoning, with the absence of uncertainty as a special case. Statistical inference uses quantitative or qualitative (categorical) data which may be subject to random variations.
Statistical inference Konishi & Kitagawa state, "The majority of the problems in statistical inference can be considered to be problems related to statistical modeling". Relatedly, Sir David Cox has said, "How [the] translation from subject-matter problem to statistical model is done is often the most critical part of an analysis".
Statistical inference Different schools of statistical inference have become established. These schools—or "paradigms"—are not mutually exclusive, and methods that work well under one paradigm often have attractive interpretations under other paradigms.
Statistical inference Formally, Bayesian inference is calibrated with reference to an explicitly stated utility, or loss function; the 'Bayes rule' is the one which maximizes expected utility, averaged over the posterior uncertainty. Formal Bayesian inference therefore automatically provides optimal decisions in a decision theoretic sense. Given assumptions, data and utility, Bayesian inference can be made for essentially any problem, although not every statistical inference need have a Bayesian interpretation. Analyses which are not formally Bayesian can be (logically) incoherent; a feature of Bayesian procedures which use proper priors (i.e. those integrable to one) is that they are guaranteed to be coherent. Some advocates of Bayesian inference assert that inference "must" take place in this decision-theoretic framework, and that Bayesian inference should not conclude with the evaluation and summarization of posterior beliefs.
Statistical inference Statistical inference is the process of deducing properties of an underlying distribution by analysis of data. Inferential statistical analysis infers properties about a population: this includes testing hypotheses and deriving estimates. The population is assumed to be larger than the observed data set; in other words, the observed data is assumed to be sampled from a larger population.
Statistical inference Fiducial inference was an approach to statistical inference based on fiducial probability, also known as a "fiducial distribution". In subsequent work, this approach has been called ill-defined, extremely limited in applicability, and even fallacious. However this argument is the same as that which shows that a so-called confidence distribution is not a valid probability distribution and, since this has not invalidated the application of confidence intervals, it does not necessarily invalidate conclusions drawn from fiducial arguments. An attempt was made to reinterpret the early work of Fisher's fiducial argument as a special case of an inference theory using Upper and lower probabilities.
Predictive inference Predictive inference is an approach to statistical inference that emphasizes the prediction of future observations based on past observations.
Statistical inference The minimum description length (MDL) principle has been developed from ideas in information theory and the theory of Kolmogorov complexity. The (MDL) principle selects statistical models that maximally compress the data; inference proceeds without assuming counterfactual or non-falsifiable "data-generating mechanisms" or probability models for the data, as might be done in frequentist or Bayesian approaches.
Statistical inference The Bayesian calculus describes degrees of belief using the 'language' of probability; beliefs are positive, integrate to one, and obey probability axioms. Bayesian inference uses the available posterior beliefs as the basis for making statistical propositions. There are several different justifications for using the Bayesian approach.
Frequentist inference Frequentist inference is a type of statistical inference that draws conclusions from sample data by emphasizing the frequency or proportion of the data. An alternative name is frequentist statistics. This is the inference framework in which the well-established methodologies of statistical hypothesis testing and confidence intervals are based. Other than frequentistic inference, the main alternative approach to statistical inference is Bayesian inference, while another is fiducial inference.
Statistical inference Developing ideas of Fisher and of Pitman from 1938 to 1939, George A. Barnard developed "structural inference" or "pivotal inference", an approach using invariant probabilities on group families. Barnard reformulated the arguments behind fiducial inference on a restricted class of models on which "fiducial" procedures would be well-defined and useful.
Statistical inference For a given dataset that was produced by a randomization design, the randomization distribution of a statistic (under the null-hypothesis) is defined by evaluating the test statistic for all of the plans that could have been generated by the randomization design. In frequentist inference, randomization allows inferences to be based on the randomization distribution rather than a subjective model, and this is important especially in survey sampling and design of experiments. Statistical inference from randomized studies is also more straightforward than many other situations. In Bayesian inference, randomization is also of importance: in survey sampling, use of sampling without replacement ensures the exchangeability of the sample with the population; in randomized experiments, randomization warrants a missing at random assumption for covariate information.
Statistical inference The frequentist procedures of significance testing and confidence intervals can be constructed without regard to utility functions. However, some elements of frequentist statistics, such as statistical decision theory, do incorporate utility functions. In particular, frequentist developments of optimal inference (such as minimum-variance unbiased estimators, or uniformly most powerful testing) make use of loss functions, which play the role of (negative) utility functions. Loss functions need not be explicitly stated for statistical theorists to prove that a statistical procedure has an optimality property. However, loss-functions are often useful for stating optimality properties: for example, median-unbiased estimators are optimal under absolute value loss functions, in that they minimize expected loss, and least squares estimators are optimal under squared error loss functions, in that they minimize expected loss.
Statistical model All statistical hypothesis tests and all statistical estimators are derived from statistical models. More generally, statistical models are part of the foundation of statistical inference.
Fiducial inference The concept of fiducial inference can be outlined by comparing its treatment of the problem of interval estimation in relation to other modes of statistical inference.
Statistical inference Incorrect assumptions of 'simple' random sampling can invalidate statistical inference. More complex semi- and fully parametric assumptions are also cause for concern. For example, incorrectly assuming the Cox model can in some cases lead to faulty conclusions. Incorrect assumptions of Normality in the population also invalidates some forms of regression-based inference. The use of any parametric model is viewed skeptically by most experts in sampling human populations: "most sampling statisticians, when they deal with confidence intervals at all, limit themselves to statements about [estimators] based on very large samples, where the central limit theorem ensures that these [estimators] will have distributions that are nearly normal." In particular, a normal distribution "would be a totally unrealistic and catastrophically unwise assumption to make if we were dealing with any kind of economic population." Here, the central limit theorem states that the distribution of the sample mean "for very large samples" is approximately normally distributed, if the distribution is not heavy tailed.