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Bayes factors for testing inequality constrained hypotheses: Issues with prior specification


  • Joris Mulder

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Methodology and Statistics, Tilburg University, The Netherlands
    • Correspondence should be addressed to Joris Mulder, Department of Methodology and Statistics, Tilburg University, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands (e-mail:

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Several issues are discussed when testing inequality constrained hypotheses using a Bayesian approach. First, the complexity (or size) of the inequality constrained parameter spaces can be ignored. This is the case when using the posterior probability that the inequality constraints of a hypothesis hold, Bayes factors based on non-informative improper priors, and partial Bayes factors based on posterior priors. Second, the Bayes factor may not be invariant for linear one-to-one transformations of the data. This can be observed when using balanced priors which are centred on the boundary of the constrained parameter space with a diagonal covariance structure. Third, the information paradox can be observed. When testing inequality constrained hypotheses, the information paradox occurs when the Bayes factor of an inequality constrained hypothesis against its complement converges to a constant as the evidence for the first hypothesis accumulates while keeping the sample size fixed. This paradox occurs when using Zellner's g prior as a result of too much prior shrinkage. Therefore, two new methods are proposed that avoid these issues. First, partial Bayes factors are proposed based on transformed minimal training samples. These training samples result in posterior priors that are centred on the boundary of the constrained parameter space with the same covariance structure as in the sample. Second, a g prior approach is proposed by letting g go to infinity. This is possible because the Jeffreys–Lindley paradox is not an issue when testing inequality constrained hypotheses. A simulation study indicated that the Bayes factor based on this g prior approach converges fastest to the true inequality constrained hypothesis.