Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1287/ijoo.2018.0001

Motivated by the fact that there may be inaccuracies in features and labels of training data, we apply robust optimization techniques to study in a principled way the uncertainty in data features and labels in classification problems and obtain robust formulations for the three most widely used classification methods: support vector machines, logistic regression, and decision trees. We show that adding robustness does not materially change the complexity of the problem and that all robust counterparts can be solved in practical computational times. We demonstrate the advantage of these robust formulations over regularized and nominal methods in synthetic data experiments, and we show that our robust classification methods offer improved out-of-sample accuracy. Furthermore, we run large-scale computational experiments across a sample of 75 data sets from the University of California Irvine Machine Learning Repository and show that adding robustness to any of the three nonregularized classification methods improves the accuracy in the majority of the data sets. We observe the most significant gains for robust classification methods on high-dimensional and difficult classification problems, with an average improvement in out-of-sample accuracy of robust versus nominal problems of 5.3% for support vector machines, 4.0% for logistic regression, and 1.3% for decision trees.

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