Extending Zelterman’s approach for robust estimation of population size to zero-truncated clustered data
Navaratna, W. C. W., Del Rio Vilas, V. and Böhning, D. (2008) Extending Zelterman’s approach for robust estimation of population size to zero-truncated clustered data. Biometrical Journal, 50 (4). pp. 584-596. ISSN 0323-3847
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/bimj.200710441
Estimation of population size with missing zero-class is an important problem that is encountered in epidemiological assessment studies. Fitting a Poisson model to the observed data by the method of maximum likelihood and estimation of the population size based on this fit is an approach that has been widely used for this purpose. In practice, however, the Poisson assumption is seldom satisfied. Zelterman (1988) has proposed a robust estimator for unclustered data that works well in a wide class of distributions applicable for count data. In the work presented here, we extend this estimator to clustered data. The estimator requires fitting a zero-truncated homogeneous Poisson model by maximum likelihood and thereby using a Horvitz-Thompson estimator of population size. This was found to work well, when the data follow the hypothesized homogeneous Poisson model. However, when the true distribution deviates from the hypothesized model, the population size was found to be underestimated. In the search of a more robust estimator, we focused on three models that use all clusters with exactly one case, those clusters with exactly two cases and those with exactly three cases to estimate the probability of the zero-class and thereby use data collected on all the clusters in the Horvitz-Thompson estimator of population size. Loss in efficiency associated with gain in robustness was examined based on a simulation study. As a trade-off between gain in robustness and loss in efficiency, the model that uses data collected on clusters with at most three cases to estimate the probability of the zero-class was found to be preferred in general. In applications, we recommend obtaining estimates from all three models and making a choice considering the estimates from the three models, robustness and the loss in efficiency. (© 2008 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)