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RIF regression via sensitivity curves

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A Correction to this article was published on 13 July 2022

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This paper proposes an empirical method to implement the recentered influence function (RIF) regression of Firpo et al. (Econometrica 77(3):953–973, 2009), a relevant method to study the effect of covariates on many statistics beyond the mean. In empirically relevant situations where the influence function is not available or difficult to compute, we suggest to use the sensitivity curve (as reported by Tukey in Exploratory Data Analysis. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1977) as a feasible alternative. This may be computationally cumbersome when the sample size is large. The relevance of the proposed strategy derives from the fact that, under general conditions, the sensitivity curve converges in probability to the influence function. In order to save computational time we propose to use a cubic splines non-parametric method for a random subsample and then to interpolate to the rest of the cases where it was not computed. Monte Carlo simulations show good finite sample properties. We illustrate the proposed estimator with an application to the polarization index of Duclos et al. (Econometrica 72(6):1737–1772, 2004).

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  1. Let \(G=2F\), then \(H_{(t,F,G)}=(1+t)F=cF\) and then by the invariance to scale

    $$\begin{aligned} \partial v\left( H_{t, F, G}\right) / \partial \left. t\right| _{t=0}=\lim _{t \downarrow 0} \frac{v(c F)-v(F)}{t}=\lim _{t \downarrow 0} \frac{0}{t}=0. \end{aligned}$$


    $$\begin{aligned} \partial ^{2} v\left( H_{t, F, \Delta _{y}}\right) / \partial \left. t^{2}\right| _{t=0}=0. \end{aligned}$$
  2. A computational example for STATA is available at


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Correspondence to Javier Alejo.

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Appendix 1

1.1 Proof of Proposition 1

Using Eq. (1) with \(F_n\) and \(F_n^{(j)}\) for the case of \(t=1\):

$$\begin{aligned} v\left( F_{n}\right) =v\left( F_{n}^{(j)}\right) +\int \psi _{n}(y) d\left( F_{n}-F_{n}^{(j)}\right) (y)+r\left( {\tilde{t}}, F_{n}, F_{n}^{(j)}\right) , \end{aligned}$$

for some \({\tilde{t}}\in [0,1]\). Note that \(\psi _{n}(y)=I F\left( y, v, F_{n}\right) {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{p}} \psi (y)\) by continuity of the probability limit.

Now note that \(n\left[ F_{n}-F_{n}^{(j)}\right] =1\left( y_{j}<y\right) +O_{p}(1)\) because

$$\begin{aligned} \begin{array}{l} {F_{n}(y)=\frac{1}{n} 1\left( y_{j} \le y\right) +\frac{n-1}{n} F_{n}^{(j)}(y)}, \\ {F_{n}(y)-F_{n}^{(j)}(y)=\frac{1}{n} 1\left( y_{j} \le y\right) +\frac{n-1}{n} F_{n}^{(j)}(y)-F_{n}^{(j)}(y)}, \\ {F_{n}(y)-F_{n}^{(j)}(y)=\frac{1}{n} 1\left( y_{j} \le y\right) -\frac{1}{n} F_{n}^{(j)}(y)}. \end{array} \end{aligned}$$

That is,

$$\begin{aligned} n\left[ F_{n}(y)-F_{n}^{(j)}\right] =1\left( y_{j} \le y\right) -a_{n}, \end{aligned}$$

with \(a_{n}=F_{n}^{(j)}(y) {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{p}} F(y)\) by the Law of Large Numbers.


$$\begin{aligned}&{n\cdot \left[ v\left( F_{n}\right) -v\left( F_{n}^{(j)}\right) \right] =\int \psi _{n}(y) d\left( 1\left( y_{j} \le y\right) -a_{n}\right) (y)+n \cdot r\left( {\tilde{t}}, F_{n}, F_{n}^{(j)}\right) } \nonumber \\&n\cdot \left[ v\left( F_{n}\right) -v\left( F_{n}^{(j)}\right) \right] =\int \psi _{n}(y) d\left( 1\left( y_{j} \le y\right) \right) (y)-\int \psi _{n}(y) d\left( a_{n}\right) (y)\nonumber \\&\quad +n \cdot r\left( {\tilde{t}}, F_{n}, F_{n}^{(j)}\right) \end{aligned}$$

Using the fact that \(1\left( y_{j} \le y\right)\) is the Dirac function, the first term of Eq. (8) is

$$\begin{aligned} \int \psi _{n}(y) d\left( 1\left( y_{j} \le y\right) \right) (y)=\psi _{n}\left( y_{j}\right) {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{p}} \psi \left( y_{j}\right) . \end{aligned}$$

Noting that \(a_{n} {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{p}} F(y)\) and \(\psi _{n}(y) {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{p}} \psi (y)\), by continuity of the probability limit, the second term of (8) becomes

$$\begin{aligned} {\text {plim}} \int \psi _{n}(y) d\left( a_{n}\right) (y)=\int \psi (y) d F(y)=0, \end{aligned}$$

because of property (i). Then,

$$\begin{aligned} {\text {plim}} \int \psi (y) d\left( 1\left( y_{j} \le y\right) +a_{n}\right) (y)=\int \psi (y) d\left( 1\left( y_{j} \le y\right) \right) (y)=\psi (y). \end{aligned}$$

It remains to study the third term in (8). From (3),

$$\begin{aligned} \begin{array}{c} {n \cdot r\left( {\tilde{t}}, F_{n}, F_{n}^{(j)}\right) =n \cdot \frac{{\tilde{t}}^{2}}{2} \iint \psi (y, z) d\left( F_{n}-F_{n}^{(j)}\right) (y) d\left( F_{n}-F_{n}^{(j)}\right) (z)} \\ {n \cdot r\left( {\tilde{t}}, F_{n}, F_{n}^{(j)}\right) =\frac{1}{n} \cdot \frac{{\tilde{t}}^{2}}{2} \iint \psi (y, z) d\left[ n\left( F_{n}-F_{n}^{(j)}\right) \right] (y) d\left[ n\left( F_{n}-F_{n}^{(j)}\right) \right] (z)} \end{array} \end{aligned}$$

for some \({\tilde{t}}\in [0,1]\). Then using (7) and property (ii),

$$\begin{aligned} {\text {plim}} \iint \phi (y, z) d\left[ n\left( F_{n}-F_{n}^{(j)}\right) \right] (y) d\left[ n\left( F_{n}-F_{n}^{(j)}\right) \right] (z)=\phi \left( y_{j}, y_{j}\right) . \end{aligned}$$

Then it follows that

$$\begin{aligned} {\text {plim}}\left\{ n \cdot r\left( {\tilde{t}}, F_{n}, F_{n}^{(j)}\right) \right\} =\left( {\text {plim}} \frac{1}{n}\right) \cdot \frac{{\tilde{t}}^{2}}{2} \phi \left( y_{j}, y_{j}\right) =0. \end{aligned}$$

Then, the result follows,

$$\begin{aligned} {\text {plim}} \frac{v\left( F_{n}\right) -v\left( F_{n}^{(j)}\right) }{1 / n}=\psi \left( y_{j}\right) =I F\left( y_{j}, v, F\right) . \ QED \end{aligned}$$

Appendix 2

1.1 Polarization index

We motivate the case of a model where the IF is not available: the DER polarization index (Duclos et al. 2004).

Polarization is an important welfare concept in economics and political science. Intuitively, it measures the tension between individuals in a society, that depends positively on how distant individuals are between groups (alienation) and how close they are within a group (identification). From this perspective, a standard measure of inequality like the Gini index focuses on just the first component. Duclos et al. (2004) provide a full axiomatic framework that leads to a logically coherent measure of polarization. For a detailed empirical study on polarization for the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, see Gasparini et al. (2008).

Let \(y_1, y_2, \ldots , y_n\) be and iid sample of incomes, ordered from lowest to highest. Duclos et al. (2004) propose the following empirical measure of polarization:

$$\begin{aligned} P_\alpha = \frac{1}{n} \sum _{i=1}^n {{\hat{f}}}(y_i)^{\alpha } {{\hat{a}}} (y_{i}) \end{aligned}$$

where \({{\hat{a}}}(y_i) = {{\hat{\mu }}} + y_i\left( n^{-1} (2i-1) - 1\right) - n^{-1} \left( 2 \sum _{j=1}^{i-1} y_j + y_i \right)\), \({{\hat{\mu }}}\) is the sample mean and \({{\hat{f}}} (y_i)\) is an estimate of the density of incomes. The parameter \(\alpha\) is set exogenously and plays a key role in characterizing polarization. As a matter of fact, when \(\alpha =0\) polarization reduces to the Gini index (note that for this particular case the IF is available). Larger values of \(\alpha\) result in the index giving relatively more importance to identification, that is, to how close individuals are ‘surrounded’ by others of similar income. The axiomatic approach of Duclos et al. (2004) imposes lower and upper bounds to the values \(\alpha\) may take in practice.

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Alejo, J., Montes-Rojas, G. & Sosa-Escudero, W. RIF regression via sensitivity curves. Stat Methods Appl 32, 329–345 (2023).

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