Daniel Kuhn, Wolfram Wiesemann
Stochastic programming and distributionally robust optimization seek deterministic decisions that optimize a risk measure, possibly in view of the most adverse distribution in an ambiguity set. We investigate under which circumstances such deterministic decisions are strictly outperformed by random decisions which depend on a randomization device producing uniformly distributed samples that are independent of all uncertain factors affecting the decision problem. We find that in the absence of distributional ambiguity, deterministic decisions are optimal if both the risk measure and the feasible region are convex, or alternatively if the risk measure is mixture-quasiconcave. We show that several classes of risk measures, such as mean (semi-)deviation and mean (semi-)moment measures, fail to be mixture-quasiconcave and can therefore give rise to problems in which the decision maker benefits from randomization. Under distributional ambiguity, on the other hand, we show that for any ambiguity averse risk measure there always exists a decision problem (with a nonconvex—e.g., mixed-integer—feasible region) in which a randomized decision strictly dominates all deterministic decisions.