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Hapfelmeier, Alexander; Ulm, Kurt (15. January 2013): Variable selection with Random Forests for missing data. Department of Statistics: Technical Reports, No.137




Variable selection has been suggested for Random Forests to improve their efficiency of data prediction and interpretation. However, its basic element, i.e. variable importance measures, can not be computed straightforward when there is missing data. Therefore an extensive simulation study has been conducted to explore possible solutions, i.e. multiple imputation, complete case analysis and a newly suggested importance measure for several missing data generating processes. The ability to distinguish relevant from non-relevant variables has been investigated for these procedures in combination with two popular variable selection methods. Findings and recommendations: Complete case analysis should not be applied as it lead to inaccurate variable selection and models with the worst prediction accuracy. Multiple imputation is a good means to select variables that would be of relevance in fully observed data. It produced the best prediction accuracy. By contrast, the application of the new importance measure causes a selection of variables that reflects the actual data situation, i.e. that takes the occurrence of missing values into account. It's error was only negligible worse compared to imputation.