Benchmarking Global Optimizers

Antoine Arnoud, Fatih Guvenen, Tatjana Kleineberg

NBER Working Paper No. 26340
Issued in October 2019
NBER Program(s):Asset Pricing Program, Economic Fluctuations and Growth Program, Labor Studies Program, The Monetary Economics Program, Technical Working Papers

We benchmark seven global optimization algorithms by comparing their performance on challenging multidimensional test functions as well as a method of simulated moments estimation of a panel data model of earnings dynamics. Five of the algorithms are taken from the popular NLopt open-source library: (i) Controlled Random Search with local mutation (CRS), (ii) Improved Stochastic Ranking Evolution Strategy (ISRES), (iii) Multi-Level Single-Linkage (MLSL) algorithm, (iv) Stochastic Global Optimization (StoGo), and (v) Evolutionary Strategy with Cauchy distribution (ESCH). The other two algorithms are versions of TikTak, which is a multistart global optimization algorithm used in some recent economic applications. For completeness, we add three popular local algorithms to the comparison—the Nelder-Mead downhill simplex algorithm, the Derivative-Free Non-linear Least Squares (DFNLS) algorithm, and a popular variant of the Davidon-Fletcher-Powell (DFPMIN) algorithm. To give a detailed comparison of algorithms, we use a set of benchmarking tools recently developed in the applied mathematics literature. We find that the success rate of many optimizers vary dramatically with the characteristics of each problem and the computational budget that is available. Overall, TikTak is the strongest performer on both the math test functions and the economic application. The next-best performing optimizers are StoGo and CRS for the test functions and MLSL for the economic application.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26340

NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us