Mike Spagat sent me an email with the above heading, referring to this paper by Leontine Alkema and Jin Rou New, which begins:
National estimates of the under-5 mortality rate (U5MR) are used to track progress in reducing child mortality and to evaluate countries’ performance related to United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4, which calls for a reduction in the U5MR by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. However, for the great majority of developing countries without well-functioning vital registration systems, estimating levels and trends in child mortality is challenging, not only because of limited data availability but also because of issues with data quality. Global U5MR estimates are often constructed without accounting for potential biases in data series, which may lead to inaccurate point estimates and/or credible intervals.
We describe a Bayesian penalized B-spline regression model for assessing levels and trends in the U5MR for all countries in the world, whereby biases in data series are estimated through the inclusion of a multilevel model to improve upon the limitations of current methods. B- spline smoothing parameters are also estimated through a multilevel model. Improved spline extrapolations are obtained through logarithmic pooling of the posterior predictive distribution of country-specific changes in spline coefficients with observed changes on the global level.
The proposed model is able to flexibly capture changes in U5MR over time, gives point estimates and credible intervals that reflect potential biases in data series and performs reasonably well in out-of-sample validation exercises. It has been accepted by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation to measure countries’ progress in reducing U5MR, and to evaluate their performance with respect to Millennium Development Goal 4.
Excellent stuff (except for the y-axes that go below zero, the ridiculously big font of the headers in Figure 4, and Tables 2, 3, and 4 (yuk!)). I’m really glad to see this stuff becoming generally accepted. Spagat says it’s being used by “that bastion of Bayesian Analysis – UNICEF.”
My patriotic former colleagues at Berkeley would be spinning in their hypothesis tests were they to see this.