electronic international standard serial number (EISSN)
A popular area level model used for the estimation of small area means is the Fay-Herriot model. This model involves unobservable random effects for the areas apart from the (fixed) linear regression based on area level covariates. Empirical best linear unbiased predictors of small area means are obtained by estimating the area random effects, and they can be expressed as a weighted average of area-specific direct estimators and regression-synthetic estimators. In some cases the observed data do not support the inclusion of the area random effects in the model. Excluding these area effects leads to the regression-synthetic estimator, that is, a zero weight is attached to the direct estimator. A preliminary test estimator of a small area mean obtained after testing for the presence of area random effects is studied. On the other hand, empirical best linear unbiased predictors of small area means that always give non-zero weights to the direct estimators in all areas together with alternative estimators based on the preliminary test are also studied. The preliminary testing procedure is also used to define new mean squared error estimators of the point estimators of small area means. Results of a limited simulation study show that, for small number of areas, the preliminary testing procedure leads to mean squared error estimators with considerably smaller average absolute relative bias than the usual mean squared error estimators, especially when the variance of the area effects is small relative to the sampling variances.
area level model; empirical best linear unbiased predictor; mean squared error; preliminary testing; small area estimation