Faculty Advisor

Balgobin Nandram

Faculty Advisor

Lynn Kuo

Faculty Advisor

Jai Won Choi

Faculty Advisor

Marcus Sarkis

Faculty Advisor

Jian Zou


It is a standard practice in small area estimation (SAE) to use a model-based approach to borrow information from neighboring areas or from areas with similar characteristics. However, survey data tend to have gaps, ties and outliers, and parametric models may be problematic because statistical inference is sensitive to parametric assumptions. We propose nonparametric hierarchical Bayesian models for multi-stage finite population sampling to robustify the inference and allow for heterogeneity, outliers, skewness, etc. Bayesian predictive inference for SAE is studied by embedding a parametric model in a nonparametric model. The Dirichlet process (DP) has attractive properties such as clustering that permits borrowing information. We exemplify by considering in detail two-stage and three-stage hierarchical Bayesian models with DPs at various stages. The computational difficulties of the predictive inference when the population size is much larger than the sample size can be overcome by the stick-breaking algorithm and approximate methods. Moreover, the model comparison is conducted by computing log pseudo marginal likelihood and Bayes factors. We illustrate the methodology using body mass index (BMI) data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and simulated data. We conclude that a nonparametric model should be used unless there is a strong belief in the specific parametric form of a model.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Mathematical Sciences

Project Type


Date Accepted





Bayes factor, sample survey, small area estimation, robustness, posterior propriety, nonparametric procedure, Dirichlet process