A Simple Estimator of Two-Dimensional Copulas, with Applications

Copulas are distributions with uniform marginals. Non‐parametric copula estimates may violate the uniformity condition in finite samples. We look at whether it is possible to obtain valid piecewise linear copula densities by triangulation. The copula property imposes strict constraints on design points, making an equi‐spaced grid a natural starting point. However, the mixed‐integer nature of the problem makes a pure triangulation approach impractical on fine grids. As an alternative, we study the ways of approximating copula densities with triangular functions which guarantees that the estimator is a valid copula density. The family of resulting estimators can be viewed as a non‐parametric MLE of B‐spline coefficients on possibly non‐equally spaced grids under simple linear constraints. As such, it can be easily solved using standard convex optimization tools and allows for a degree of localization. A simulation study shows an attractive performance of the estimator in small samples and compares it with some of the leading alternatives. We demonstrate empirical relevance of our approach using three applications. In the first application, we investigate how the body mass index of children depends on that of parents. In the second application, we construct a bivariate copula underlying the Gibson paradox from macroeconomics. In the third application, we show the benefit of using our approach in testing the null of independence against the alternative of an arbitrary dependence pattern.

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2020 articles