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A note on the efficiency of sandwich covariance matrix estimation. (English) Zbl 1073.62539
Summary: The sandwich estimator, also known as robust covariance matrix estimator, heteroscedasticity-consistent covariance matrix estimate, or empirical covariance matrix estimator, has achieved increasing use in the econometric literature as well as with the growing popularity of generalized estimating equations. Its virtue is that it provides consistent estimates of the covariance matrix for parameter estimates even when the fitted parametric model fails to hold or is not even specified. Surprisingly though, there has been little discussion of properties of the sandwich method other than consistency. We investigate the sandwich estimator in quasi-likelihood models asymptotically, and in the linear case analytically. We show that under certain circumstances when the quasi-likelihood model is correct, the sandwich estimate is often far more variable than the usual parametric variance estimate. The increased variance is a fixed feature of the method and the price that one pays to obtain consistency even when the parametric model fails or when there is heteroscedasticity. We show that the additional variability directly affects the coverage probability of confidence intervals constructed from sandwich variance estimates. In fact, the use of sandwich variance estimates combined with t-distribution quantiles gives confidence intervals with coverage probability falling below the nominal value. We propose an adjustment to compensate for this fact.

MSC:
62H12 Estimation in multivariate analysis
62P20 Applications of statistics to economics
62J12 Generalized linear models (logistic models)
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