Markov chain Monte Carlo is a method of producing a correlated sample in order to estimate features of a complicated target distribution via simple ergodic averages. A fundamental question in MCMC applications is when should the sampling stop? That is, when are the ergodic averages good estimates of the desired quantities? We consider a method that stops the MCMC sampling the first time the width of a confidence interval based on the ergodic averages is less than a user-specified value. Hence calculating Monte Carlo standard errors is a critical step in assessing the output of the simulation. In particular, we consider the regenerative simulation and batch means methods of estimating the variance of the asymptotic normal distribution. We describe sufficient conditions for the strong consistency and asymptotic normality of both methods and investigate their finite sample properties in a variety of examples.


Statistical Methodology | Statistical Theory