Linear / Logistic Regression in R: Dealing With Unknown Factor Levels in Test Data

Let’s say you have data containing a categorical variable with 50 levels. When you divide the data into train and test sets, chances are you don’t have all 50 levels featuring in your training set.

This often happens when you divide the data set into train and test sets according to the distribution of the outcome variable. In doing so, chances are that our explanatory categorical variable might not be distributed exactly the same way in train and test sets – so much so that certain levels of this categorical variable are missing from the training set. The more levels there are to a categorical variable, it gets difficult for that variable to be similarly represented upon splitting the data.

Take for instance this example data set (train.csv + test.csv) which contains a categorical variable var_b that takes 349 unique levels. Our train data has 334 of these levels – on which the model is built – and hence 15 levels are excluded from our trained model. If you try making predictions on the test set with this model in R, it throws an error:
factor var_b has new levels 16060, 17300, 17980, 19060, 21420, 21820,
25220, 29340, 30300, 33260, 34100, 38340, 39660, 44300, 45460

If you’ve used R to model generalized linear class of models such as linear, logit or probit models, then chances are you’ve come across this problem – especially when you’re validating your trained model on test data.

The workaround to this problem is in the form of a function, remove_missing_levels  that I found here written by pat-s. You need magrittr library installed and it can only work on lm, glm and glmmPQL objects.

Once you’ve sourced the above function in R, you can seamlessly proceed with using your trained model to make predictions on the test set. The code below demonstrates this for the data set shared above. You can find these codes in one of my github repos and try it out yourself.

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Analytics Vidhya Workshop / Hackathon – Experiments with Data

This was a hackathon + workshop conducted by Analytics Vidhya in which I took part and made it to the #1 on the leaderboard. The data set was straight-forward and quite clean with only a minor need for missing value treatment. This post will might be useful for people who want a walk-through on the steps involving data munging and developing machine-learned models.

screenshot-datahack.analyticsvidhya.com 2016-09-01 23-43-54

 

The workshop ended with a basic hackathon with data given on age, education, working class, occupation, marital status and gender of individuals and one had to predict the income bracket of these individuals.

I’ve posted the data and my code and solutions in this GitHub repo. An IPython Notebook has also been shared.

I approached the problem first by attempting some feature engineering (other than missing value treatment) on the data, and then ran a basic logistic classifier and a random forest classifier. However it turned out that these models performed better without feature engineering, which shows the dataset was already quite clean and informative to begin with for this competition.

I later attempted gradient boosting with parameter tuning to maximizing scores.