Bayesian nonparametric disclosure risk estimation via mixed effects log-linear models

Cinzia Carota, Maurizio Filippone, Roberto Leombruni, Silvia Polettini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Statistical agencies and other institutions collect data under the promise to protect the confidentiality of respondents. When releasing microdata samples, the risk that records can be identified must be assessed. To this aim, a widely adopted approach is to isolate categorical variables key to the identification and analyze multi-way contingency tables of such variables. Common disclosure risk measures focus on sample unique cells in these tables and adopt parametric log-linear models as the standard statistical tools for the problem. Such models often have to deal with large and extremely sparse tables that pose a number of challenges to risk estimation. This paper proposes to overcome these problems by studying nonparametric alternatives based on Dirichlet process random effects. The main finding is that the inclusion of such random effects allows us to reduce considerably the number of fixed effects required to achieve reliable risk estimates. This is studied on applications to real data, suggesting, in particular, that our mixed models with main effects only produce roughly equivalent estimates compared to the all two-way interactions models, and are effective in defusing potential shortcomings of traditional log-linear models. This paper adopts a fully Bayesian approach that accounts for all sources of uncertainty, including that about the population frequencies, and supplies unconditional (posterior) variances and credible intervals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-546
Number of pages22
JournalAnnals of Applied Statistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Institute of Mathematical Statistics, 2015.


  • Bayesian nonparametric models
  • Confidentiality
  • Dirichlet process
  • Disclosure risk
  • Log-linear models
  • Mixed effects models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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