I am trying to fit a cumulative probability model (ordinal logistic regression with 17 categories and 827 observations) with elastic net penalty using the ordinalNet function from the ordinalNet package in R.

I have 33 covariates and observe the following:

  1. When I include all 33 covariates, all coefficients are set to zero.
  2. When I include only 31 of the 33 covariates, many coefficients are different from zero.

The datasets in 1 and 2 are the same.

I did not expect that removing covariates would lead to less coefficients equal to zero. Rather the opposite. What could be the cause of this?

The code I use looks as follows:

ordinalNet(x = as.matrix(dataSet[, ..tested.factors]),
           y = dataSet[, category_number],
           family = "cumulative",
           link = "logit",
           standardize = FALSE)

dataSet is a data.table.


1 Answer 1


The first step, if you are not using unsupervised learning (data reduction), is to show evidence that there is a predictive signal. Fit the full model without penalty and get the likelihood ratio $\chi^2$ test with say 33 degrees of freedom. This corrects for having 33 chances to find something. If this $\chi^2$ is not large you do not have a basis for finding predictors.

Note that lasso and elastic net have a low probability of finding the right predictors. That is why data reduction is so valuable. Reduce the dimensionality of the problem, without using Y in any way, using things like variable clustering followed by regular principal components, or sparse principal components analysis. After you score groups of predictors into a single metric you can use these to develop the outcome model and also to run the overall likelihood ratio test to check for predictive signal with fewer than 33 d.f.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer and suggestions, @Frank Harell. The likelihood ratio suggests there is a basis for finding predictors. I am bound by some constraints that do not allow me to apply dimension reduction techniques, but for my own development I should try to apply these. $\endgroup$
    – koteletje
    Oct 22, 2020 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ With data reduction being so promising for your particular situation what are your constraints? $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2020 at 11:29
  • $\begingroup$ Most importantly restrictions imposed by model users: the model needs to be understandable/intuitive to model users without a quantitative background. $\endgroup$
    – koteletje
    Oct 22, 2020 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ This does not impose a restriction for most models. It does put a burden on the modeler to translate the model results to various formats that are interpretable by the researcher. Semiparametric odels can be restated in a variety of useful ways and so can other models and so can data reduction results. The desire for parsimony turns out to be a desire for bad predictions and arbitrary feature selection. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2020 at 14:31

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