Variable selection with missing data in both covariates and outcomes: Imputation and machine learning. (arXiv:2104.02769v1 [stat.ME]) Leave a comment

The missing data issue is ubiquitous in health studies. Variable selection in
the presence of both missing covariates and outcomes is an important
statistical research topic but has been less studied. Existing literature
focuses on parametric regression techniques that provide direct parameter
estimates of the regression model. In practice, parametric regression models
are often sub-optimal for variable selection because they are susceptible to
misspecification. Machine learning methods considerably weaken the parametric
assumptions and increase modeling flexibility, but do not provide as naturally
defined variable importance measure as the covariate effect native to
parametric models. We investigate a general variable selection approach when
both the covariates and outcomes can be missing at random and have general
missing data patterns. This approach exploits the flexibility of machine
learning modeling techniques and bootstrap imputation, which is amenable to
nonparametric methods in which the covariate effects are not directly
available. We conduct expansive simulations investigating the practical
operating characteristics of the proposed variable selection approach, when
combined with four tree-based machine learning methods, XGBoost, Random
Forests, Bayesian Additive Regression Trees (BART) and Conditional Random
Forests, and two commonly used parametric methods, lasso and backward stepwise
selection. Numeric results show XGBoost and BART have the overall best
performance across various settings. Guidance for choosing methods appropriate
to the structure of the analysis data at hand are discussed. We further
demonstrate the methods via a case study of risk factors for 3-year incidence
of metabolic syndrome with data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the

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