Open Access: Modelling Excess Zeros in Count Data: A New Perspective on Modelling Approaches

Each week, we select a recently published Open Access article to feature. This week’s article comes from the International Statistical Review and offers a new perspective on modelling approaches. 
The article’s abstract is given below, with the full article available to read here.
Haslett, J.Parnell, A. C.Hinde, J., and de Andrade Moral, R. (2021Modelling Excess Zeros in Count Data: A New Perspective on Modelling ApproachesInternational Statistical Review
We consider the analysis of count data in which the observed frequency of zero counts is unusually large, typically with respect to the Poisson distribution. We focus on two alternative modelling approaches: over-dispersion (OD) models and zero-inflation (ZI) models, both of which can be seen as generalisations of the Poisson distribution; we refer to these as implicit and explicit ZI models, respectively. Although sometimes seen as competing approaches, they can be complementary; OD is a consequence of ZI modelling, and ZI is a by-product of OD modelling. The central objective in such analyses is often concerned with inference on the effect of covariates on the mean, in light of the apparent excess of zeros in the counts. Typically, the modelling of the excess zeros per se is a secondary objective, and there are choices to be made between, and within, the OD and ZI approaches. The contribution of this paper is primarily conceptual. We contrast, descriptively, the impact on zeros of the two approaches. We further offer a novel descriptive characterisation of alternative ZI models, including the classic hurdle and mixture models, by providing a unifying theoretical framework for their comparison. This in turn leads to a novel and technically simpler ZI model. We develop the underlying theory for univariate counts and touch on its implication for multivariate count data.
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