Estimating marginal and incremental effects on health outcomes using flexible link and variance function models

Biostatistics. 2005 Jan;6(1):93-109. doi: 10.1093/biostatistics/kxh020.


We propose an extension to the estimating equations in generalized linear models to estimate parameters in the link function and variance structure simultaneously with regression coefficients. Rather than focusing on the regression coefficients, the purpose of these models is inference about the mean of the outcome as a function of a set of covariates, and various functionals of the mean function used to measure the effects of the covariates. A commonly used functional in econometrics, referred to as the marginal effect, is the partial derivative of the mean function with respect to any covariate, averaged over the empirical distribution of covariates in the model. We define an analogous parameter for discrete covariates. The proposed estimation method not only helps to identify an appropriate link function and to suggest an underlying distribution for a specific application but also serves as a robust estimator when no specific distribution for the outcome measure can be identified. Using Monte Carlo simulations, we show that the resulting parameter estimators are consistent. The method is illustrated with an analysis of inpatient expenditure data from a study of hospitalists.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Economics, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Models, Econometric*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Physicians / economics
  • Regression Analysis*
  • Treatment Outcome