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Statistical inference for statistical decisions

Charles Manski ()

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Abstract: The Wald development of statistical decision theory addresses decision making with sample data. Wald's concept of a statistical decision function (SDF) embraces all mappings of the form [data -> decision]. An SDF need not perform statistical inference; that is, it need not use data to draw conclusions about the true state of nature. Inference-based SDFs have the sequential form [data -> inference -> decision]. This paper motivates inference-based SDFs as practical procedures for decision making that may accomplish some of what Wald envisioned. The paper first addresses binary choice problems, where all SDFs may be viewed as hypothesis tests. It next considers as-if optimization, which uses a point estimate of the true state as if the estimate were accurate. It then extends this idea to as-if maximin and minimax-regret decisions, which use point estimates of some features of the true state as if they were accurate. The paper primarily uses finite-sample maximum regret to evaluate the performance of inference-based SDFs. To illustrate abstract ideas, it presents specific findings concerning treatment choice and point prediction with sample data.

Date: 2019-09
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