The design and structure of geex

The details below are for those interested in how geex is organized. It is not necessary for using geex.

The Estimating Function

The design of geex starts with the key to M-estimation, the estimating function:

[ \psi(O_i, \theta) . ]

geex composes $\psi$ with two R functions: the "outer" estFUN and the "inner" psiFUN. In pseudocode, $\psi(O_i, \theta) =$:

estFUN <- function(O_i){
  psiFUN <- function(theta){
     psi(O_i, theta)

The reason for composing the $\psi$ function in this way is that in order to do estimation (finding roots) and inference (computing the empirical sandwich variance estimator), $\psi$ needs to be function of $\theta$. M-estimation theory gives the following instructions:

With $\hat{\theta}$ in hand, the quantity $B_i$ is simple to compute. The computational challenges of M-estimation, then, are finding roots of $G_m$ and calculating the derivative $A_i$. By composing $\psi$ of two functions in geex, one can first do all the manipulations of $O_i$ (data) that are independent of $\theta$. In a sense, estFUN "fixes" the data so that numerical routines only need deal with $\theta$ in psiFUN.

M-estimation basis

Before describing the mechanics of how geex finding roots of $G_m$ and computes derivatives of $\psi$, let's look at the m_estimation_basis S4 object which forms the basis of all computations in geex.

An m_estimation_basis object, at a minimum needs two objects: an estFUN and a data.frame. Let's use a simple estFUN that estimates the mean and variance of Y1 in the geexex dataset.


myee <- function(data){
  Y1 <- data$Y1
    c(Y1 - theta[1],
      (Y1 - theta[1])^2 - theta[2])

Now we can create a basis:

mybasis <- new("m_estimation_basis",
               .estFUN = myee,
               .data   = geexex)

And look at what this object contains:


Two slots are worth examining. First, .psiFUN_list is a list of functions:


This object is essentially equivalent to:

m <- nrow(geexex)
lapply(split(geexex, f = 1:m), function(O_i){

From this list of functions, we can compute $A_i$, and by summing across the list, form $G_m$. The latter is found in:


Finding roots

Now that we have $G_m$ as a function of theta, we can found its roots using a root-finding algorithm such as rootSolve::multiroot:

  f = mybasis@.GFUN, 
  start = c(0, 0))

Within geex this is done with the estimate_GFUN_roots function. To illustrate, I first need to update the .control slot in mybasis with starting values for multiroot.

mycontrol <- new('geex_control', .root = setup_root_control(start = c(1, 1)))
mybasis@.control <- mycontrol
roots <- mybasis %>%

Note that is bad form to assign S4 slot with [email protected] <- something, but I do so here because I have not created a generic function for setting the .control slot.

Computing the Empirical Sandwich Variance Estimator

In the last section, we found $\hat{\theta}$, which we now use to compute the $A_i$ and $B_i$ matrices.

geex uses the numDeriv::jacobian function to numerically evaluate derivatives. For example, $A_1 = - (\partial \psi(O_1, \theta)/\partial \theta)|_{\theta = \hat{\theta}}$ for this example is:

-numDeriv::jacobian(func = mybasis@.psiFUN_list[[1]], x = roots$root)

geex performs this operation for each $i = 1, \dots, m$ to yield a list of $A_i$ matrices. Then summing across this list yields $A = \sum_i A_i$. The estimate_sandwich_matrices function computes the list of $A_i$, $B_i$ and $A$ and $B$:

mats <- mybasis %>%
  estimate_sandwich_matrices(.theta = roots$root) 

# Compare to the numDeriv computation above

Finally, computing $\hat{\Sigma} = A^{-1} B (A^{-1})^{\intercal}$ is accomplished with the compute_sigma function.

mats %>%
  {compute_sigma(A = grab_bread(.), B = grab_meat(.))}

M-estimation with m_estimate

All of the operations described above are wrapped and packaged in the m_estimate function:

  estFUN = myee,
  data   = geexex,
  root_control = setup_root_control(start = c(0, 0))

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geex documentation built on Sept. 24, 2018, 1:04 a.m.