Random Forest Missing Data Algorithms

19 Jan 2017  ·  Fei Tang, Hemant Ishwaran ·

Random forest (RF) missing data algorithms are an attractive approach for dealing with missing data. They have the desirable properties of being able to handle mixed types of missing data, they are adaptive to interactions and nonlinearity, and they have the potential to scale to big data settings. Currently there are many different RF imputation algorithms but relatively little guidance about their efficacy, which motivated us to study their performance. Using a large, diverse collection of data sets, performance of various RF algorithms was assessed under different missing data mechanisms. Algorithms included proximity imputation, on the fly imputation, and imputation utilizing multivariate unsupervised and supervised splitting---the latter class representing a generalization of a new promising imputation algorithm called missForest. Performance of algorithms was assessed by ability to impute data accurately. Our findings reveal RF imputation to be generally robust with performance improving with increasing correlation. Performance was good under moderate to high missingness, and even (in certain cases) when data was missing not at random.

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