Logistic regression models can seem pretty overwhelming to the uninitiated. Why not use a regular regression model? Just turn Y into an indicator variable–Y=1 for success and Y=0 for failure.

For some good reasons.

1.It doesn’t make sense to model Y as a linear function of the parameters because Y has only two values. You just can’t make a line out of that (at least not one that fits the data well).

2. The predicted values can be any positive or negative number, not just 0 or 1.

3. The values of 0 and 1 are arbitrary.The important part is not to predict the numerical value of Y, but the probability that success or failure occurs, and the extent to which that probability depends on the predictor variables.

So okay, you say. Why not use a simple transformation of Y, like probability of success–the probability that Y=1.

Well, that doesn’t work so well either.

Why not?

1. The right hand side of the equation can be any number, but the left hand side can only range from 0 to 1.

2. It turns out the relationship is not linear, but rather follows an S-shaped (or sigmoidal) curve.

To obtain a linear relationship, we need to transform this response too, Pr(success).

As luck would have it, there are a few functions that:

1. are not restricted to values between 0 and 1

2. will form a linear relationship with our parameters

These functions include:

•Arcsine

•Probit

•Logit

All three of these work just as well, but (believe it or not) the Logit function is the easiest to interpret.

But as it turns out, you can’t just run the transformation then do a regular linear regression on the transformed data. That would be way too easy, but also give inaccurate results. Logistic Regression uses a different method for estimating the parameters, which gives better results–better meaning unbiased, with lower variances.

When the dependent variable in a regression model is a proportion or a percentage, it can be tricky to decide on the appropriate way to model it.

The big problem with ordinary linear regression is that the model can predict values that aren’t possible–values below 0 or above 1. But the other problem is that the relationship isn’t linear–it’s sigmoidal. A sigmoidal curve looks like a flattened S–linear in the middle, but flattened on the ends. So now what?

The simplest approach is to do a linear regression anyway. This approach can be justified only in a few situations.

1. All your data fall in the middle, linear section of the curve. This generally translates to all your data being between .2 and .8 (although I’ve heard that between .3-.7 is better). If this holds, you don’t have to worry about the two objections. You do have a linear relationship, and you won’t get predicted values much beyond those values–certainly not beyond 0 or 1.

2. It is a really complicated model that would be much harder to model another way. If you can assume a linear model, it will be much easier to do, say, a complicated mixed model or a structural equation model. If it’s just a single multiple regression, however, you should look into one of the other methods.

A second approach is to treat the proportion as a binary response then run a logistic or probit regression. This will only work if the proportion can be thought of and you have the data for the number of successes and the total number of trials. For example, the proportion of land area covered with a certain species of plant would be hard to think of this way, but the proportion of correct answers on a 20-answer assessment would.

The third approach is to treat it the proportion as a censored continuous variable. The censoring means that you don’t have information below 0 or above 1. For example, perhaps the plant would spread even more if it hadn’t run out of land. If you take this approach, you would run the model as a two-limit tobit model (Long, 1997). This approach works best if there isn’t an excessive amount of censoring (values of 0 and 1).

Reference: Long, J.S. (1997). Regression Models for Categorical and Limited Dependent Variables. Sage Publishing.

### Multinomial Logistic Regression

The multinomial (a.k.a. polytomous) logistic regression model is a simple extension of the binomial logistic regression model. They are used when the dependent variable has more than two nominal (unordered) categories.

Dummy coding of independent variables is quite common. In multinomial logistic regression the *dependent* variable is dummy coded into multiple 1/0 variables. There is a variable for all categories but one, so if there are M categories, there will be M-1 dummy variables. All but one category has its own dummy variable. Each category’s dummy variable has a value of 1 for its category and a 0 for all others. One category, the reference category, doesn’t need its own dummy variable as it is uniquely identified by all the other variables being 0.

The multinomial logistic regression then estimates a separate binary logistic regression model for each of those dummy variables. The result is (more…)

Researchers are often interested in setting up a model to analyze the relationship between some predictors (i.e., independent variables) and a response (i.e., dependent variable). Linear regression is commonly used when the response variable is continuous. One assumption of linear models is that the residual errors follow a normal distribution. This assumption fails when the response variable is categorical, so an ordinary linear model is not appropriate. This article presents a regression model for a response variable that is dichotomous–having two categories. Examples are common: whether a plant lives or dies, whether a survey respondent agrees or disagrees with a statement, or whether an at-risk child graduates or drops out from high school.

In ordinary linear regression, the response variable (Y) is a linear function of the coefficients (B0, B1, etc.) that correspond to the predictor variables (X1, X2, etc.). A typical model would look like:

Y = B0 + B1*X1 + B2*X2 + B3*X3 + … + E

For a dichotomous response variable, we could set up a similar linear model to predict individuals’ category memberships if numerical values are used to represent the two categories. Arbitrary values of 1 and 0 are chosen for mathematical convenience. Using the first example, we would assign Y = 1 if a plant lives and Y = 0 if a plant dies.

This linear model does not work well for a few reasons. First, the response values, 0 and 1, are arbitrary, so modeling the actual values of Y is not exactly of interest. Second, it is really the probability that each individual in the population responds with 0 or 1 that we are interested in modeling. For example, we may find that plants with a high level of a fungal infection (X1) fall into the category “the plant lives” (Y) less often than those plants with low level of infection. Thus, as the level of infection rises, the probability of a plant living decreases.

Thus, we might consider modeling P, the probability, as the response variable. Again, there are problems. Although the general decrease in probability is accompanied by a general increase in infection level, we know that P, like all probabilities, can only fall within the boundaries of 0 and 1. Consequently, it is better to assume that the relationship between X1 and P is sigmoidal (S-shaped), rather than a straight line.

It is possible, however, to find a linear relationship between X1 and a function of P. Although a number of functions work, one of the most useful is the logit function. It is the natural log of the odds that Y is equal to 1, which is simply the ratio of the probability that Y is 1 divided by the probability that Y is 0. The relationship between the logit of P and P itself is sigmoidal in shape. The regression equation that results is:

ln[P/(1-P)] = B0 + B1*X1 + B2*X2 + …

Although the left side of this equation looks intimidating, this way of expressing the probability results in the right side of the equation being linear and looking familiar to us. This helps us understand the meaning of the regression coefficients. The coefficients can easily be transformed so that their interpretation makes sense.

The logistic regression equation can be extended beyond the case of a dichotomous response variable to the cases of ordered categories and polytymous categories (more than two categories).