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A latent variables approach for clustering mixed binary and continuous variables within a Gaussian mixture model. (English) Zbl 1284.62384

Summary: For clustering objects, we often collect not only continuous variables, but binary attributes as well. This paper proposes a model-based clustering approach with mixed binary and continuous variables where each binary attribute is generated by a latent continuous variable that is dichotomized with a suitable threshold value, and where the scores of the latent variables are estimated from the binary data. In economics, such variables are called utility functions and the assumption is that the binary attributes (the presence or the absence of a public service or utility) are determined by low and high values of these functions. In genetics, the latent response is interpreted as the ‘liability’ to develop a qualitative trait or phenotype. The estimated scores of the latent variables, together with the observed continuous ones, allow to use a multivariate Gaussian mixture model for clustering, instead of using a mixture of discrete and continuous distributions. After describing the method, this paper presents the results of both simulated and real-case data and compares the performances of the multivariate Gaussian mixture model and of a mixture of joint multivariate and multinomial distributions. Results show that the former model outperforms the mixture model for variables with different scales, both in terms of classification error rate and reproduction of the clusters means.

MSC:

62H30 Classification and discrimination; cluster analysis (statistical aspects)
62P20 Applications of statistics to economics
91C20 Clustering in the social and behavioral sciences
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