logistic regression

Dummy Code Software Defaults Mess With All of Us

July 15th, 2011 by

In my last blog post, I wrote about a mistake I once made when I didn’t realize the defaults for dummy coding were different in two SPSS procedures (Binary Logistic and GEE).

Ironically, about the same time I wrote it, I was having a conversation with Ann Maria de Mars on Twitter.  She was trying to figure out why her logistic regression model fit results were identical in SAS Proc Logistic and SPSS Binary Logistic, but the coefficients in SAS were half those of SPSS.

It was ironic because I, of course, didn’t recognize it as the same issue and wasn’t much help.

But Ann Maria investigated and discovered that it came down to differences in the defaults for coding categorical predictors in SAS and SPSS that did it.  Her detailed and humorous explanation is here.

Some takeaways for you, the researcher and data analyst:

1. Give yourself a break if you hit a snag.  Even very experienced data analysts, statisticians who understand what they’re doing, get stumped sometimes.  Don’t ever think that performing data analysis is an IQ test.  You’re bringing together many skills and complex tools.

2. Learn thy software.  In my last post, I phrased it “Know thy software”, but this is where you get to know it.  Snags are good opportunities to investigate the details of your software, just like Ann Maria did.  If you can think of it as a challenge to figure out–a puzzle–it can actually be fun.

Make friends with your syntax manuals.

3. Get help when you need it. Statistical software packages *are* complex tools. You don’t have to know everything to use them

Ask colleagues.  Call customer support. Call a stat consultant.  That’s what they’re there for.

4. A great way to check your work is to run your test two different ways.  It’s another reason to be able to use at least two stat software packages.  I’m not suggesting you have to run every analysis twice.  But when a result looks strange, or you want to double-check a specific important model, this can be a good strategy for testing things out.

It may be that your results aren’t telling you what you think they are.



Steps to Take When Your Regression (or Other Statistical) Results Just Look…Wrong

April 19th, 2010 by

Stage 2You’ve probably experienced this before. You’ve done a statistical analysis, you’ve figured out all the steps, you finally get results and are able to interpret them. But the statistical results just look…wrong. Backwards, or even impossible—theoretically or logically.

This happened a few times recently to a couple of my consulting clients, and once to me. So I know that feeling of panic well. There are so many possible causes of incorrect results, but there are a few steps you can take that will help you figure out which one you’ve got and how (and whether) to correct it.

Errors in Data Coding and Entry

In both of my clients’ cases, the problem was that they had coded missing data with an impossible and extreme value, like 99. But they failed to define that code as missing in SPSS. So SPSS took 99 as a real data point, which (more…)

Interpreting Regression Coefficients in Models other than Ordinary Linear Regression

January 5th, 2010 by

Someone who registered for my upcoming Interpreting (Even Tricky) Regression Models workshop asked if the content applies to logistic regression as well.

The short answer: Yes

The long-winded detailed explanation of why this is true and the one caveat:

One of the greatest things about regression models is that they all have the same set up: (more…)

Chi-square test vs. Logistic Regression: Is a fancier test better?

November 9th, 2009 by

I recently received this email, which I thought was a great question, and one of wider interest…

Hello Karen,
I am an MPH student in biostatistics and I am curious about using regression for tests of associations in applied statistical analysis.  Why is using regression, or logistic regression “better” than doing bivariate analysis such as Chi-square?

I read a lot of studies in my graduate school studies, and it seems like half of the studies use Chi-Square to test for association between variables, and the other half, who just seem to be trying to be fancy, conduct some complicated regression-adjusted for-controlled by- model. But the end results seem to be the same. I have worked with some professionals that say simple is better, and that using Chi- Square is just fine, but I have worked with other professors that insist on building models. It also just seems so much more simple to do chi-square when you are doing primarily categorical analysis.

My professors don’t seem to be able to give me a simple justified
answer, so I thought I’d ask you. I enjoy reading your site and plan to begin participating in your webinars.

Thank you!


Multiple Imputation of Categorical Variables

June 1st, 2009 by

Most Multiple Imputation methods assume multivariate normality, so a common question is how to impute missing values from categorical variables.

Paul Allison, one of my favorite authors of statistical information for researchers, did a study that showed that the most common method actually gives worse results that listwise deletion.  (Did I mention I’ve used it myself?) (more…)

Why Logistic Regression for Binary Response?

May 5th, 2009 by

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:




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.