Studying the Edge of the State Space: An Agent-Based Modeling Approach to Forecasting Rare Events

Miguel Garces, Matthew Reichert, Ian S. Lustick

In this paper, we begin with a thought exercise to generate a definition of rare events that captures those events that pose the ‘rare events problem,’ and introduce the concept of a ‘state space’ as a useful way to conceptualize it. Second, we review three approaches that seek to increase the N of rare event data: one from King, Keohane, and Verba (1994) and two from King and Zeng (2001), identifying the strengths and limitations of each. Next, we propose agent-based modeling as an alternative approach to the rare-event problem that moves past existing limitations. Finally, we provide a proof-of-concept for the agent-based modeling approach, using a model of Virtual Egypt with alternating inductive and process-tracing type techniques to study the rare event of a military takeover in Egypt in July 2013.

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