A concrete example of the collaborative double-robust targeted likelihood estimator (C-TMLE) introduced in a companion article in this issue is presented, and applied to the estimation of causal effects and variable importance parameters in genomic data. The focus is on non-parametric estimation in a point treatment data structure. Simulations illustrate the performance of C-TMLE relative to current competitors such as the augmented inverse probability of treatment weighted estimator that relies on an external non-collaborative estimator of the treatment mechanism, and inefficient estimation procedures including propensity score matching and standard inverse probability of treatment weighting. C-TMLE is also applied to the estimation of the covariate-adjusted marginal effect of individual HIV mutations on resistance to the anti-retroviral drug lopinavir. The influence curve of the C-TMLE is used to establish asymptotically valid statistical inference. The list of mutations found to have a statistically significant association with resistance is in excellent agreement with mutation scores provided by the Stanford HIVdb mutation scores database.
causal effect; cross-validation; collaborative double robust; double robust; efficient influence curve; penalized likelihood; penalization; estimator selection; locally efficient; maximum likelihood estimation; model selection; super efficiency; super learning; targeted maximum likelihood estimation; targeted nuisance parameter estimator selection; variable importance
There is an active debate in the literature on censored data about the relative performance of model based maximum likelihood estimators, IPCW-estimators, and a variety of double robust semiparametric efficient estimators. Kang and Schafer (2007) demonstrate the fragility of double robust and IPCW-estimators in a simulation study with positivity violations. They focus on a simple missing data problem with covariates where one desires to estimate the mean of an outcome that is subject to missingness. Responses by Robins, et al. (2007), Tsiatis and Davidian (2007), Tan (2007) and Ridgeway and McCaffrey (2007) further explore the challenges faced by double robust estimators and offer suggestions for improving their stability. In this article, we join the debate by presenting targeted maximum likelihood estimators (TMLEs). We demonstrate that TMLEs that guarantee that the parametric submodel employed by the TMLE procedure respects the global bounds on the continuous outcomes, are especially suitable for dealing with positivity violations because in addition to being double robust and semiparametric efficient, they are substitution estimators. We demonstrate the practical performance of TMLEs relative to other estimators in the simulations designed by Kang and Schafer (2007) and in modified simulations with even greater estimation challenges.
censored data; collaborative double robustness; collaborative targeted maximum likelihood estimation; double robust; estimator selection; inverse probability of censoring weighting; locally efficient estimation; maximum likelihood estimation; semiparametric model; targeted maximum likelihood estimation; targeted minimum loss based estimation; targeted nuisance parameter estimator selection
We consider a class of semiparametric normal transformation models for right censored bivariate failure times. Nonparametric hazard rate models are transformed to a standard normal model and a joint normal distribution is assumed for the bivariate vector of transformed variates. A semiparametric maximum likelihood estimation procedure is developed for estimating the marginal survival distribution and the pairwise correlation parameters. This produces an efficient estimator of the correlation parameter of the semiparametric normal transformation model, which characterizes the bivariate dependence of bivariate survival outcomes. In addition, a simple positive-mass-redistribution algorithm can be used to implement the estimation procedures. Since the likelihood function involves infinite-dimensional parameters, the empirical process theory is utilized to study the asymptotic properties of the proposed estimators, which are shown to be consistent, asymptotically normal and semiparametric efficient. A simple estimator for the variance of the estimates is also derived. The finite sample performance is evaluated via extensive simulations.
Asymptotic normality; Bivariate failure time; Consistency; Semiparametric efficiency; Semiparametric maximum likelihood estimate; Semiparametric normal transformation
When a large number of candidate variables are present, a dimension reduction procedure is usually conducted to reduce the variable space before the subsequent analysis is carried out. The goal of dimension reduction is to find a list of candidate genes with a more operable length ideally including all the relevant genes. Leaving many uninformative genes in the analysis can lead to biased estimates and reduced power. Therefore, dimension reduction is often considered a necessary predecessor of the analysis because it can not only reduce the cost of handling numerous variables, but also has the potential to improve the performance of the downstream analysis algorithms.
We propose a TMLE-VIM dimension reduction procedure based on the variable importance measurement (VIM) in the frame work of targeted maximum likelihood estimation (TMLE). TMLE is an extension of maximum likelihood estimation targeting the parameter of interest. TMLE-VIM is a two-stage procedure. The first stage resorts to a machine learning algorithm, and the second step improves the first stage estimation with respect to the parameter of interest.
We demonstrate with simulations and data analyses that our approach not only enjoys the prediction power of machine learning algorithms, but also accounts for the correlation structures among variables and therefore produces better variable rankings. When utilized in dimension reduction, TMLE-VIM can help to obtain the shortest possible list with the most truly associated variables.
In longitudinal and repeated measures data analysis, often the goal is to determine the effect of a treatment or aspect on a particular outcome (e.g., disease progression). We consider a semiparametric repeated measures regression model, where the parametric component models effect of the variable of interest and any modification by other covariates. The expectation of this parametric component over the other covariates is a measure of variable importance. Here, we present a targeted maximum likelihood estimator of the finite dimensional regression parameter, which is easily estimated using standard software for generalized estimating equations.
The targeted maximum likelihood method provides double robust and locally efficient estimates of the variable importance parameters and inference based on the influence curve. We demonstrate these properties through simulation under correct and incorrect model specification, and apply our method in practice to estimating the activity of transcription factor (TF) over cell cycle in yeast. We specifically target the importance of SWI4, SWI6, MBP1, MCM1, ACE2, FKH2, NDD1, and SWI5.
The semiparametric model allows us to determine the importance of a TF at specific time points by specifying time indicators as potential effect modifiers of the TF. Our results are promising, showing significant importance trends during the expected time periods. This methodology can also be used as a variable importance analysis tool to assess the effect of a large number of variables such as gene expressions or single nucleotide polymorphisms.
targeted maximum likelihood; semiparametric; repeated measures; longitudinal; transcription factors
Rationale and Objectives
Semiparametric methods provide smooth and continuous receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve fits to ordinal test results and require only that the data follow some unknown monotonic transformation of the model's assumed distributions. The quantitative relationship between cutoff settings or individual test-result values on the data scale and points on the estimated ROC curve is lost in this procedure, however. To recover that relationship in a principled way, we propose a new algorithm for “proper” ROC curves and illustrate it by use of the proper binormal model.
Materials and Methods
Several authors have proposed the use of multinomial distributions to fit semiparametric ROC curves by maximum-likelihood estimation. The resulting approach requires nuisance parameters that specify interval probabilities associated with the data, which are used subsequently as a basis for estimating values of the curve parameters of primary interest. In the method described here, we employ those “nuisance” parameters to recover the relationship between any ordinal test-result scale and true-positive fraction, false-positive fraction, and likelihood ratio. Computer simulations based on the proper binormal model were used to evaluate our approach in estimating those relationships and to assess the coverage of its confidence intervals for realistically sized datasets.
In our simulations, the method reliably estimated simple relationships between test-result values and the several ROC quantities.
The proposed approach provides an effective and reliable semiparametric method with which to estimate the relationship between cutoff settings or individual test-result values and corresponding points on the ROC curve.
Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis; proper binormal model; likelihood ratio; test-result scale; maximum likelihood estimation (MLE)
The Cox proportional hazards model or its discrete time analogue, the logistic failure time model, posit highly restrictive parametric models and attempt to estimate parameters which are specific to the model proposed. These methods are typically implemented when assessing effect modification in survival analyses despite their flaws. The targeted maximum likelihood estimation (TMLE) methodology is more robust than the methods typically implemented and allows practitioners to estimate parameters that directly answer the question of interest. TMLE will be used in this paper to estimate two newly proposed parameters of interest that quantify effect modification in the time to event setting. These methods are then applied to the Tshepo study to assess if either gender or baseline CD4 level modify the effect of two cART therapies of interest, efavirenz (EFV) and nevirapine (NVP), on the progression of HIV. The results show that women tend to have more favorable outcomes using EFV while males tend to have more favorable outcomes with NVP. Furthermore, EFV tends to be favorable compared to NVP for individuals at high CD4 levels.
causal effect; semi-parametric; censored longitudinal data; double robust; efficient influence curve; influence curve; G-computation; Targeted Maximum Likelihood Estimation; Cox-proportional hazards; survival analysis
We consider two-stage sampling designs, including so-called nested case control studies, where one takes a random sample from a target population and completes measurements on each subject in the first stage. The second stage involves drawing a subsample from the original sample, collecting additional data on the subsample. This data structure can be viewed as a missing data structure on the full-data structure collected in the second-stage of the study. Methods for analyzing two-stage designs include parametric maximum likelihood estimation and estimating equation methodology. We propose an inverse probability of censoring weighted targeted maximum likelihood estimator (IPCW-TMLE) in two-stage sampling designs and present simulation studies featuring this estimator.
two-stage designs; targeted maximum likelihood estimators; nested case control studies; double robust estimation
We consider a random effects quantile regression analysis of clustered data and propose a semiparametric approach using empirical likelihood. The random regression coefficients are assumed independent with a common mean, following parametrically specified distributions. The common mean corresponds to the population-average effects of explanatory variables on the conditional quantile of interest, while the random coefficients represent cluster specific deviations in the covariate effects. We formulate the estimation of the random coefficients as an estimating equations problem and use empirical likelihood to incorporate the parametric likelihood of the random coefficients. A likelihood-like statistical criterion function is yield, which we show is asymptotically concave in a neighborhood of the true parameter value and motivates its maximizer as a natural estimator. We use Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) samplers in the Bayesian framework, and propose the resulting quasi-posterior mean as an estimator. We show that the proposed estimator of the population-level parameter is asymptotically normal and the estimators of the random coefficients are shrunk toward the population-level parameter in the first order asymptotic sense. These asymptotic results do not require Gaussian random effects, and the empirical likelihood based likelihood-like criterion function is free of parameters related to the error densities. This makes the proposed approach both flexible and computationally simple. We illustrate the methodology with two real data examples.
Empirical likelihood; Markov Chain Monte Carlo; Quasi-posterior distribution
Targeted maximum likelihood estimation of a parameter of a data generating distribution, known to be an element of a semi-parametric model, involves constructing a parametric model through an initial density estimator with parameter ɛ representing an amount of fluctuation of the initial density estimator, where the score of this fluctuation model at ɛ = 0 equals the efficient influence curve/canonical gradient. The latter constraint can be satisfied by many parametric fluctuation models since it represents only a local constraint of its behavior at zero fluctuation. However, it is very important that the fluctuations stay within the semi-parametric model for the observed data distribution, even if the parameter can be defined on fluctuations that fall outside the assumed observed data model. In particular, in the context of sparse data, by which we mean situations where the Fisher information is low, a violation of this property can heavily affect the performance of the estimator. This paper presents a fluctuation approach that guarantees the fluctuated density estimator remains inside the bounds of the data model. We demonstrate this in the context of estimation of a causal effect of a binary treatment on a continuous outcome that is bounded. It results in a targeted maximum likelihood estimator that inherently respects known bounds, and consequently is more robust in sparse data situations than the targeted MLE using a naive fluctuation model.
When an estimation procedure incorporates weights, observations having large weights relative to the rest heavily influence the point estimate and inflate the variance. Truncating these weights is a common approach to reducing the variance, but it can also introduce bias into the estimate. We present an alternative targeted maximum likelihood estimation (TMLE) approach that dampens the effect of these heavily weighted observations. As a substitution estimator, TMLE respects the global constraints of the observed data model. For example, when outcomes are binary, a fluctuation of an initial density estimate on the logit scale constrains predicted probabilities to be between 0 and 1. This inherent enforcement of bounds has been extended to continuous outcomes. Simulation study results indicate that this approach is on a par with, and many times superior to, fluctuating on the linear scale, and in particular is more robust when there is sparsity in the data.
targeted maximum likelihood estimation; TMLE; causal effect
We propose a general strategy for variable selection in semiparametric regression models by penalizing appropriate estimating functions. Important applications include semiparametric linear regression with censored responses and semiparametric regression with missing predictors. Unlike the existing penalized maximum likelihood estimators, the proposed penalized estimating functions may not pertain to the derivatives of any objective functions and may be discrete in the regression coefficients. We establish a general asymptotic theory for penalized estimating functions and present suitable numerical algorithms to implement the proposed estimators. In addition, we develop a resampling technique to estimate the variances of the estimated regression coefficients when the asymptotic variances cannot be evaluated directly. Simulation studies demonstrate that the proposed methods perform well in variable selection and variance estimation. We illustrate our methods using data from the Paul Coverdell Stroke Registry.
Accelerated failure time model; Buckley-James estimator; Censoring; Least absolute shrinkage and selection operator; Least squares; Linear regression; Missing data; Smoothly clipped absolute deviation
Improving efficiency for regression coefficients and predicting trajectories of individuals are two important aspects in analysis of longitudinal data. Both involve estimation of the covariance function. Yet, challenges arise in estimating the covariance function of longitudinal data collected at irregular time points. A class of semiparametric models for the covariance function is proposed by imposing a parametric correlation structure while allowing a nonparametric variance function. A kernel estimator is developed for the estimation of the nonparametric variance function. Two methods, a quasi-likelihood approach and a minimum generalized variance method, are proposed for estimating parameters in the correlation structure. We introduce a semiparametric varying coefficient partially linear model for longitudinal data and propose an estimation procedure for model coefficients by using a profile weighted least squares approach. Sampling properties of the proposed estimation procedures are studied and asymptotic normality of the resulting estimators is established. Finite sample performance of the proposed procedures is assessed by Monte Carlo simulation studies. The proposed methodology is illustrated by an analysis of a real data example.
Kernel regression; local linear regression; profile weighted least squares; semiparametric varying coefficient model
Researchers of uncommon diseases are often interested in assessing potential risk factors. Given the low incidence of disease, these studies are frequently case-control in design. Such a design allows a sufficient number of cases to be obtained without extensive sampling and can increase efficiency; however, these case-control samples are then biased since the proportion of cases in the sample is not the same as the population of interest. Methods for analyzing case-control studies have focused on utilizing logistic regression models that provide conditional and not causal estimates of the odds ratio. This article will demonstrate the use of the prevalence probability and case-control weighted targeted maximum likelihood estimation (MLE), as described by van der Laan (2008), in order to obtain causal estimates of the parameters of interest (risk difference, relative risk, and odds ratio). It is meant to be used as a guide for researchers, with step-by-step directions to implement this methodology. We will also present simulation studies that show the improved efficiency of the case-control weighted targeted MLE compared to other techniques.
We consider tests of hypotheses when the parameters are not identifiable under the null in semiparametric models, where regularity conditions for profile likelihood theory fail. Exponential average tests based on integrated profile likelihood are constructed and shown to be asymptotically optimal under a weighted average power criterion with respect to a prior on the nonidentifiable aspect of the model. These results extend existing results for parametric models, which involve more restrictive assumptions on the form of the alternative than do our results. Moreover, the proposed tests accommodate models with infinite dimensional nuisance parameters which either may not be identifiable or may not be estimable at the usual parametric rate. Examples include tests of the presence of a change-point in the Cox model with current status data and tests of regression parameters in odds-rate models with right censored data. Optimal tests have not previously been studied for these scenarios. We study the asymptotic distribution of the proposed tests under the null, fixed contiguous alternatives and random contiguous alternatives. We also propose a weighted bootstrap procedure for computing the critical values of the test statistics. The optimal tests perform well in simulation studies, where they may exhibit improved power over alternative tests.
Change-point models; contiguous alternative; empirical processes; exponential average test; nonstandard testing problem; odds-rate models; optimal test; power; profile likelihood
This article deals with quasi- and pseudo-likelihood estimation in a class of continuous-time multi-type Markov branching processes observed at discrete points in time. “Conventional” and conditional estimation are discussed for both approaches. We compare their properties and identify situations where they lead to asymptotically equivalent estimators. Both approaches possess robustness properties, and coincide with maximum likelihood estimation in some cases. Quasi-likelihood functions involving only linear combinations of the data may be unable to estimate all model parameters. Remedial measures exist, including the resort either to non-linear functions of the data or to conditioning the moments on appropriate sigma-algebras. The method of pseudo-likelihood may also resolve this issue. We investigate the properties of these approaches in three examples: the pure birth process, the linear birth-and-death process, and a two-type process that generalizes the previous two examples. Simulations studies are conducted to evaluate performance in finite samples.
Continuous-time branching process; Conditional inference; Non-identifiability; Estimating equation; Optimality; Birth process; Birth-and-death process
Length-biased sampling has been well recognized in economics, industrial reliability, etiology applications, epidemiological, genetic and cancer screening studies. Length-biased right-censored data have a unique data structure different from traditional survival data. The nonparametric and semiparametric estimations and inference methods for traditional survival data are not directly applicable for length-biased right-censored data. We propose new expectation-maximization algorithms for estimations based on full likelihoods involving infinite dimensional parameters under three settings for length-biased data: estimating nonparametric distribution function, estimating nonparametric hazard function under an increasing failure rate constraint, and jointly estimating baseline hazards function and the covariate coefficients under the Cox proportional hazards model. Extensive empirical simulation studies show that the maximum likelihood estimators perform well with moderate sample sizes and lead to more efficient estimators compared to the estimating equation approaches. The proposed estimates are also more robust to various right-censoring mechanisms. We prove the strong consistency properties of the estimators, and establish the asymptotic normality of the semi-parametric maximum likelihood estimators under the Cox model using modern empirical processes theory. We apply the proposed methods to a prevalent cohort medical study. Supplemental materials are available online.
Cox regression model; EM algorithm; Increasing failure rate; Non-parametric likelihood; Profile likelihood; Right-censored data
Matched case-control study designs are commonly implemented in the field of public health. While matching is intended to eliminate confounding, the main potential benefit of matching in case-control studies is a gain in efficiency. Methods for analyzing matched case-control studies have focused on utilizing conditional logistic regression models that provide conditional and not causal estimates of the odds ratio. This article investigates the use of case-control weighted targeted maximum likelihood estimation to obtain marginal causal effects in matched case-control study designs. We compare the use of case-control weighted targeted maximum likelihood estimation in matched and unmatched designs in an effort to explore which design yields the most information about the marginal causal effect. The procedures require knowledge of certain prevalence probabilities and were previously described by van der Laan (2008). In many practical situations where a causal effect is the parameter of interest, researchers may be better served using an unmatched design.
We propose a double-penalized likelihood approach for simultaneous model selection and estimation in semiparametric mixed models for longitudinal data. Two types of penalties are jointly imposed on the ordinary log-likelihood: the roughness penalty on the nonparametric baseline function and a nonconcave shrinkage penalty on linear coefficients to achieve model sparsity. Compared to existing estimation equation based approaches, our procedure provides valid inference for data with missing at random, and will be more efficient if the specified model is correct. Another advantage of the new procedure is its easy computation for both regression components and variance parameters. We show that the double penalized problem can be conveniently reformulated into a linear mixed model framework, so that existing software can be directly used to implement our method. For the purpose of model inference, we derive both frequentist and Bayesian variance estimation for estimated parametric and nonparametric components. Simulation is used to evaluate and compare the performance of our method to the existing ones. We then apply the new method to a real data set from a lactation study.
Correlated data; Gaussian stochastic process; Linear mixed models; Smoothly clipped absolute deviation; Smoothing splines
We consider methods for estimating the effect of a covariate on a disease onset distribution when the observed data structure consists of right-censored data on diagnosis times and current status data on onset times amongst individuals who have not yet been diagnosed. Dunson and Baird (2001, Biometrics 57, 306–403) approached this problem using maximum likelihood, under the assumption that the ratio of the diagnosis and onset distributions is monotonic nondecreasing. As an alternative, we propose a two-step estimator, an extension of the approach of van der Laan, Jewell, and Petersen (1997, Biometrika 84, 539–554) in the single sample setting, which is computationally much simpler and requires no assumptions on this ratio. A simulation study is performed comparing estimates obtained from these two approaches, as well as that from a standard current status analysis that ignores diagnosis data. Results indicate that the Dunson and Baird estimator outperforms the two-step estimator when the monotonicity assumption holds, but the reverse is true when the assumption fails. The simple current status estimator loses only a small amount of precision in comparison to the two-step procedure but requires monitoring time information for all individuals. In the data that motivated this work, a study of uterine fibroids and chemical exposure to dioxin, the monotonicity assumption is seen to fail. Here, the two-step and current status estimators both show no significant association between the level of dioxin exposure and the hazard for onset of uterine fibroids; the two-step estimator of the relative hazard associated with increasing levels of exposure has the least estimated variance amongst the three estimators considered.
Current status data; Proportional hazards; Uterine fibroids
We establish a general asymptotic theory for nonparametric maximum likelihood estimation in semiparametric regression models with right censored data. We identify a set of regularity conditions under which the nonparametric maximum likelihood estimators are consistent, asymptotically normal, and asymptotically efficient with a covariance matrix that can be consistently estimated by the inverse information matrix or the profile likelihood method. The general theory allows one to obtain the desired asymptotic properties of the nonparametric maximum likelihood estimators for any specific problem by verifying a set of conditions rather than by proving technical results from first principles. We demonstrate the usefulness of this powerful theory through a variety of examples.
Counting process; empirical process; multivariate failure times; nonparametric likelihood; profile likelihood; survival data
Estimation of longitudinal data covariance structure poses significant challenges because the data are usually collected at irregular time points. A viable semiparametric model for covariance matrices was proposed in Fan, Huang and Li (2007) that allows one to estimate the variance function nonparametrically and to estimate the correlation function parametrically via aggregating information from irregular and sparse data points within each subject. However, the asymptotic properties of their quasi-maximum likelihood estimator (QMLE) of parameters in the covariance model are largely unknown. In the current work, we address this problem in the context of more general models for the conditional mean function including parametric, nonparametric, or semi-parametric. We also consider the possibility of rough mean regression function and introduce the difference-based method to reduce biases in the context of varying-coefficient partially linear mean regression models. This provides a more robust estimator of the covariance function under a wider range of situations. Under some technical conditions, consistency and asymptotic normality are obtained for the QMLE of the parameters in the correlation function. Simulation studies and a real data example are used to illustrate the proposed approach.
Correlation structure; difference-based estimation; quasi-maximum likelihood; varying-coefficient partially linear model
Missing data arise in genetic association studies when genotypes are unknown or when
haplotypes are of direct interest. We provide a general likelihood-based framework for
making inference on genetic effects and gene–environment interactions with such
missing data. We allow genetic and environmental variables to be correlated while leaving
the distribution of environmental variables completely unspecified. We consider 3 major
study designs—cross-sectional, case–control, and cohort designs—and
construct appropriate likelihood functions for all common phenotypes (e.g.
case–control status, quantitative traits, and potentially censored ages at onset of
disease). The likelihood functions involve both finite- and infinite-dimensional
parameters. The maximum likelihood estimators are shown to be consistent, asymptotically
normal, and asymptotically efficient. Expectation–Maximization (EM) algorithms are
developed to implement the corresponding inference procedures. Extensive simulation
studies demonstrate that the proposed inferential and numerical methods perform well in
practical settings. Illustration with a genome-wide association study of lung cancer is
Association studies; EM algorithm; Genotype; Haplotype; Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium; Maximum likelihood; Semiparametric efficiency; Single nucleotide polymorphisms; Untyped SNPs
Covariate adjustment using linear models for continuous outcomes in randomized trials has been shown to increase efficiency and power over the unadjusted method in estimating the marginal effect of treatment. However, for binary outcomes, investigators generally rely on the unadjusted estimate as the literature indicates that covariate-adjusted estimates based on the logistic regression models are less efficient. The crucial step that has been missing when adjusting for covariates is that one must integrate/average the adjusted estimate over those covariates in order to obtain the marginal effect. We apply the method of targeted maximum likelihood estimation (tMLE) to obtain estimators for the marginal effect using covariate adjustment for binary outcomes. We show that the covariate adjustment in randomized trials using the logistic regression models can be mapped, by averaging over the covariate(s), to obtain a fully robust and efficient estimator of the marginal effect, which equals a targeted maximum likelihood estimator. This tMLE is obtained by simply adding a clever covariate to a fixed initial regression. We present simulation studies that demonstrate that this tMLE increases efficiency and power over the unadjusted method, particularly for smaller sample sizes, even when the regression model is mis-specified.
clinical trails; efficiency; covariate adjustment; variable selection
Targeted maximum likelihood estimation is a versatile tool for estimating parameters in semiparametric and nonparametric models. We work through an example applying targeted maximum likelihood methodology to estimate the parameter of a marginal structural model. In the case we consider, we show how this can be easily done by clever use of standard statistical software. We point out differences between targeted maximum likelihood estimation and other approaches (including estimating function based methods). The application we consider is to estimate the effect of adherence to antiretroviral medications on virologic failure in HIV positive individuals.
targeted maximum likelihood; marginal structural model
Efficient estimation of parameters is a major objective in analyzing longitudinal data. We propose two generalized empirical likelihood based methods that take into consideration within-subject correlations. A nonparametric version of the Wilks theorem for the limiting distributions of the empirical likelihood ratios is derived. It is shown that one of the proposed methods is locally efficient among a class of within-subject variance-covariance matrices. A simulation study is conducted to investigate the finite sample properties of the proposed methods and compare them with the block empirical likelihood method by You et al. (2006) and the normal approximation with a correctly estimated variance-covariance. The results suggest that the proposed methods are generally more efficient than existing methods which ignore the correlation structure, and better in coverage compared to the normal approximation with correctly specified within-subject correlation. An application illustrating our methods and supporting the simulation study results is also presented.
Confidence region; Efficient estimation; Empirical likelihood; Longitudinal data; Maximum empirical likelihood estimator