Bayesian Estimation of Multivariate Latent Regression Models: Gauss Versus Laplace

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A latent multivariate regression model is developed that employs a generalized asymmetric Laplace (GAL) prior distribution for regression coefficients. The model is designed for high-dimensional applications where an approximate sparsity condition is satisfied, such that many regression coefficients are near zero after accounting for all the model predictors. The model is applicable to large-scale assessments such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which includes hundreds of student, teacher, and school predictors of latent achievement. Monte Carlo evidence suggests that employing the GAL prior provides more precise estimation of coefficients that equal zero in comparison to a multivariate normal (MVN) prior, which translates to more accurate model selection. Furthermore, the GAL yielded less biased estimates of regression coefficients in smaller samples. The developed model is applied to mathematics achievement data from the 2011 NAEP for 175,200 eighth graders. The GAL and MVN NAEP estimates were similar, but the GAL was more parsimonious by selecting 12 fewer (i.e., 83 of the 148) variable groups. There were noticeable differences between estimates computed with a GAL prior and plausible value regressions with the AM software (beta version 0.06.00). Implications of the results are discussed for test developers and applied researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-616
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Bayesian Lasso
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress
  • multivariate generalized asymmetric Laplace distribution
  • multivariate regression
  • probit model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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