UC Berkeley Library
Contingent Kernel Density Estimation
- Author(s): Fortmann-Roe, Scott
- Starfield, Richard
- Getz, Wayne M
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttp://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0030549
Kernel density estimation is a widely used method for estimating a distribution based on a sample of points drawn from that distribution. Generally, in practice some form of error contaminates the sample of observed points. Such error can be the result of imprecise measurements or observation bias. Often this error is negligible and may be disregarded in analysis. In cases where the error is non-negligible, estimation methods should be adjusted to reduce resulting bias. Several modifications of kernel density estimation have been developed to address specific forms of errors. One form of error that has not yet been addressed is the case where observations are nominally placed at the centers of areas from which the points are assumed to have been drawn, where these areas are of varying sizes. In this scenario, the bias arises because the size of the error can vary among points and some subset of points can be known to have smaller error than another subset or the form of the error may change among points. This paper proposes a “contingent kernel density estimation” technique to address this form of error. This new technique adjusts the standard kernel on a point-by-point basis in an adaptive response to changing structure and magnitude of error. In this paper, equations for our contingent kernel technique are derived, the technique is validated using numerical simulations, and an example using the geographic locations of social networking users is worked to demonstrate the utility of the method.