Optimizing Policymakers’ Loss Functions in Crisis Prediction: Before, Within or After?
Early-warning models most commonly optimize signaling thresholds on crisis probabilities. The expost threshold optimization is based upon a loss function accounting for preferences between forecast errors, but comes with two crucial drawbacks: unstable thresholds in recursive estimations and an in-sample overfit at the expense of out-of-sample performance. We propose two alternatives for threshold setting: (i) including preferences in the estimation itself and (ii) setting thresholds ex-ante according to preferences only. Given probabilistic model output, it is intuitive that a decision rule is independent of the data or model specification, as thresholds on probabilities represent a willingness to issue a false alarm vis-à-vis missing a crisis. We provide simulated and real-world evidence that this simplification results in stable thresholds and improves out-of-sample performance. Our solution is not restricted to binary-choice models, but directly transferable to the signaling approach and all probabilistic early-warning models.
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The Impact of Preferences on Early Warning Systems - The Case of the European Commission's Scoreboard
European Journal of Political Economy,
The European Commission’s Scoreboard of Macroeconomic Imbalances is a rare case of a publicly released early warning system. It allows the preferences of the politicians involved to be analysed with regard to the two potential errors of an early warning system – missing a crisis and issuing a false alarm. These preferences might differ with the institutional setting. Such an analysis is done for the first time in this article for early warning systems in general by using a standard signals approach, including a preference-based optimisation approach, to set thresholds. It is shown that, in general, the thresholds of the Commission’s Scoreboard are set low (resulting in more alarm signals), as compared to a neutral stand. Based on political economy considerations the result could have been expected.