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Recovery of inter- and intra-personal heterogeneity using mixed logit models

By Stephane Hess and Kenneth E. Train

Abstract

Most applications of discrete choice models in transportation now utilise a random coefficient specification, such as mixed logit, to represent taste heterogeneity. However, little is known about the ability of these models to capture the heterogeneity in finite samples (as opposed to asymptotically). Also, due to the computational intensity of the standard estimation procedures, several alternative, less demanding methods have been proposed, and yet the relative accuracy of these methods has not been investigated. This is especially true in the context of work looking at joint inter-respondent and intra-respondent variation. This paper presents an overview of the various different estimators, gives insights into some of the theoretical properties, and analyses their performance in a large scale study on simulated data. In particular, we specify 31 different forms of heterogeneity, with multiple versions of each dataset, and with results from over 16,000 mixed logit estimation runs. The findings suggest that variation in tastes over consumers is captured by all the methods, including the simpler versions, at least when sample size is sufficiently large. When tastes vary over choice situations for each consumer, as well as over consumers, the ability of the methods to capture and differentiate the two sources of heterogeneity becomes more tenuous. Only the most computationally intensive approach is able to capture adequately the two sources of variation, but at the cost of very high run times. Our results highlight the difficulty of retrieving taste heterogeneity with only cross-sectional data, providing further evidence of the benefits of repeated choice data. Our findings also suggest that the data requirements of random coefficients models may be more substantial than is commonly assumed, further reinforcing concerns about small sample issues.Simulation-based estimation Approximation Random taste heterogeneity Mixed logit Intra-respondent Panel data

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