Semiparametric estimation of regression quantiles with application to standardizing weight for height and age in US children
The appropriate interpretation of measurements often requires standardization for concomitant factors. For example, standardization of weight for both height and age is important in obesity research and in failure-to-thrive research in children. Regression quantiles from a reference population afford one intuitive and popular approach to standardization. Current methods for the estimation of regression quantiles can be classified as nonparametric with respect to distributional assumptions or as fully parametric. We propose a semiparametric method where we model the mean and variance as flexible regression spline functions and allow the unspecified distribution to vary smoothly as a function of covariates. Similarly to Cole and Green, our approach provides separate estimates and summaries for location, scale and distribution. However, similarly to Koenker and Bassett, we do not assume any parametric form for the distribution. Estimation for either cross-sectional or longitudinal samples is obtained by using estimating equations for the location and scale functions and through local kernel smoothing of the empirical distribution function for standardized residuals. Using this technique with data on weight, height and age for females under 3 years of age, we find that there is a close relationship between quantiles of weight for height and age and quantiles of body mass index (BMI=weight/height2) for age in this cohort.
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