Publications

Maximum likelihood estimation with missing outcomes: From simplicity to complexity.

Author(s): Baker SG

Journal: Stat Med

Date: 2019 Sep 30

Major Program(s) or Research Group(s): BRG

PubMed ID: 31392751

PMC ID: PMC6879193

Abstract: Many clinical or prevention studies involve missing or censored outcomes. Maximum likelihood (ML) methods provide a conceptually straightforward approach to estimation when the outcome is partially missing. Methods of implementing ML methods range from the simple to the complex, depending on the type of data and the missing-data mechanism. Simple ML methods for ignorable missing-data mechanisms (when data are missing at random) include complete-case analysis, complete-case analysis with covariate adjustment, survival analysis with covariate adjustment, and analysis via propensity-to-be-missing scores. More complex ML methods for ignorable missing-data mechanisms include the analysis of longitudinal dropouts via a marginal model for continuous data or a conditional model for categorical data. A moderately complex ML method for categorical data with a saturated model and either ignorable or nonignorable missing-data mechanisms is a perfect fit analysis, an algebraic method involving closed-form estimates and variances. A complex and flexible ML method with categorical data and either ignorable or nonignorable missing-data mechanisms is the method of composite linear models, a matrix method requiring specialized software. Except for the method of composite linear models, which can involve challenging matrix specifications, the implementation of these ML methods ranges in difficulty from easy to moderate.