Posts Tagged ‘multiple linear regression’

Forecast Friday Topic: Multicollinearity – Correcting and Accepting it

July 22, 2010

(Fourteenth in a series)

In last week’s Forecast Friday post, we discussed how to detect multicollinearity in a regression model and how dropping a suspect variable or variables from the model can be one approach to reducing or eliminating multicollinearity. However, removing variables can cause other problems – particularly specification bias – if the suspect variable is indeed an important predictor. Today we will discuss two additional approaches to correcting multicollinearity – obtaining more data and transforming variables – and will discuss when it’s best to just accept the multicollinearity.

Obtaining More Data

Multicollinearity is really an issue with the sample, not the population. Sometimes, sampling produces a data set that might be too homogeneous. One way to remedy this would be to add more observations to the data set. Enlarging the sample will introduce more variation in the data series, which reduces the effect of sampling error and helps increase precision when estimating various properties of the data. Increased sample sizes can reduce either the presence or the impact of multicollinearity, or both. Obtaining more data is often the best way to remedy multicollinearity.

Obtaining more data does have problems, however. Sometimes, additional data just isn’t available. This is especially the case with time series data, which can be limited or otherwise finite. If you need to obtain that additional information through great effort, it can be costly and time consuming. Also, the additional data you add to your sample could be quite similar to your original data set, so there would be no benefit to enlarging your data set. The new data could even make problems worse!

Transforming Variables

Another way statisticians and modelers go about eliminating multicollinearity is through data transformation. This can be done in a number of ways.

Combine Some Variables

The most obvious way would be to find a way to combine some of the variables. After all, multicollinearity suggests that two or more independent variables are strongly correlated. Perhaps you can multiply two variables together and use the product of those two variables in place of them.

So, in our example of the donor history, we had the two variables “Average Contribution in Last 12 Months” and “Times Donated in Last 12 Months.” We can multiply them to create a composite variable, “Total Contributions in Last 12 Months,” and then use that new variable, along with the variable “Months Since Last Donation” to perform the regression. In fact, if we did that with our model, we end up with a model (not shown here) that has an R2=0.895, and this time the coefficient for “Months Since Last Donation” is significant, as is our “Total Contribution” variable. Our F statistic is a little over 72. Essentially, the R2 and F statistics are only slightly lower than in our original model, suggesting that the transformation was useful. However, looking at the correlation matrix, we still see a strong negative correlation between our two independent variables, suggesting that we still haven’t eliminated multicollinearity.

Centered Interaction Terms

Sometimes we can reduce multicollinearity by creating an interaction term between variables in question. In a model trying to predict performance on a test based on hours spent studying and hours of sleep, you might find that hours spent studying appears to be related with hours of sleep. So, you create a third independent variable, Sleep_Study_Interaction. You do this by computing the average value for both the hours of sleep and hours of studying variables. For each observation, you subtract each independent variable’s mean from its respective value for that observation. Once you’ve done that for each observation, multiply their differences together. This is your interaction term, Sleep_Study_Interaction. Run the regression now with the original two variables and the interaction term. When you subtract the means from the variables in question, you are in effect centering interaction term, which means you’re taking into account central tendency in your data.

Differencing Data

If you’re working with time series data, one way to reduce multicollinearity is to run your regression using differences. To do this, you take every variable – dependent and independent – and, beginning with the second observation – subtract the immediate prior observation’s values for those variables from the current observation. Now, instead of working with original data, you are working with the change in data from one period to the next. Differencing eliminates multicollinearity by removing the trend component of the time series. If all independent variables had followed more or less the same trend, they could end up highly correlated. Sometimes, however, trends can build on themselves for several periods, so multiple differencing may be required. In this case, subtracting the period before was taking a “first difference.” If we subtracted two periods before, it’s a “second difference,” and so on. Note also that with differencing, we lose the first observations in the data, depending on how many periods we have to difference, so if you have a small data set, differencing can reduce your degrees of freedom and increase your risk of making a Type I Error: concluding that an independent variable is not statistically significant when, in truth it is.

Other Transformations

Sometimes, it makes sense to take a look at a scatter plot of each independent variable’s values with that of the dependent variable to see if the relationship is fairly linear. If it is not, that’s a cue to transform an independent variable. If an independent variable appears to have a logarithmic relationship, you might substitute its natural log. Also, depending on the relationship, you can use other transformations: square root, square, negative reciprocal, etc.

Another consideration: if you’re predicting the impact of violent crime on a city’s median family income, instead of using the number of violent crimes committed in the city, you might instead divide it by the city’s population and come up with a per-capita figure. That will give more useful insights into the incidence of crime in the city.

Transforming data in these ways helps reduce multicollinearity by representing independent variables differently, so that they are less correlated with other independent variables.

Limits of Data Transformation

Transforming data has its own pitfalls. First, transforming data also transforms the model. A model that uses a per-capita crime figure for an independent variable has a very different interpretation than one using an aggregate crime figure. Also, interpretations of models and their results get more complicated as data is transformed. Ideally, models are supposed to be parsimonious – that is, they explain a great deal about the relationship as simply as possible. Typically, parsimony means as few independent variables as possible, but it also means as few transformations as possible. You also need to do more work. If you try to plug in new data to your resulting model for forecasting, you must remember to take the values for your data and transform them accordingly.

Living With Multicollinearity

Multicollinearity is par for the course when a model consists of two or more independent variables, so often the question isn’t whether multicollinearity exists, but rather how severe it is. Multicollinearity doesn’t bias your parameter estimates, but it inflates their variance, making them inefficient or untrustworthy. As you have seen from the remedies offered in this post, the cures can be worse than the disease. Correcting multicollinearity can also be an iterative process; the benefit of reducing multicollinearity may not justify the time and resources required to do so. Sometimes, any effort to reduce multicollinearity is futile. Generally, for the purposes of forecasting, it might be perfectly OK to disregard the multicollinearity. If, however, you’re using regression analysis to explain relationships, then you must try to reduce the multicollinearity.

A good approach is to run a couple of different models, some using variations of the remedies we’ve discussed here, and comparing their degree of multicollinearity with that of the original model. It is also important to compare the forecast accuracy of each. After all, if all you’re trying to do is forecast, then a model with slightly less multicollinearity but a higher degree of forecast error is probably not preferable to a more precise forecasting model with higher degrees of multicollinearity.

The Takeaways:

  1. Where you have multiple regression, you almost always have multicollinearity, especially in time series data.
  2. A correlation matrix is a good way to detect multicollinearity. Multicollinearity can be very serious if the correlation matrix shows that some of the independent variables are more highly correlated with each other than they are with the dependent variable.
  3. You should suspect multicollinearity if:
    1. You have a high R2 but low t-statistics;
    2. The sign for a coefficient is opposite of what is normally expected (a relationship that should be positive is negative, and vice-versa).
  4. Multicollinearity doesn’t bias parameter estimates, but makes them untrustworthy by enlarging their variance.
  5. There are several ways of remedying multicollinearity, with obtaining more data often being the best approach. Each remedy for multicollinearity contributes a new set of problems and limitations, so you must weigh the benefit of reduced multicollinearity on time and resources needed to do so, and the resulting impact on your forecast accuracy.

Next Forecast Friday Topic: Autocorrelation

These past two weeks, we discussed the problem of multicollinearity. Next week, we will discuss the problem of autocorrelation – the phenomenon that occurs when we violate the assumption that the error terms are not correlated with each other. We will discuss how to detect autocorrelation, discuss in greater depth the Durbin-Watson statistic’s use as a measure of the presence of autocorrelation, and how to correct for autocorrelation.

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Forecast Friday Topic: Multicollinearity – How to Detect it; How to Correct it

July 15, 2010

(Thirteenth in a series)

In last week’s Forecast Friday post, we explored how to perform regression analysis using Excel. We looked at the giving history of 20 contributors to a nonprofit organization, and developed a model based on the recency, frequency, and monetary value (RFM) of their past donations. We derived the following regression equation:

We were pleased to see that our model had a coefficient of determination – or R2=0.933, indicating that our model explained 93.3% of the change in the donor’s current contribution (our Ŷ). But we were a little disheartened when we looked at the t-statistics of each of our regression coefficients. Recall that we found our recency coefficient was not significant:

Parameter

Coefficient

T-statistic

Significant?

Intercept

87.27

4.32

Yes

Months since Last

(1.80)

(1.44)

No

Times Donated

2.45

2.87

Yes

Average Contribution

0.35

3.26

Yes

Yet, most direct marketing professionals know clearly that RFM theory postulates that all three variables are significant indicators of whether and how much a donor will give (or a customer will buy). When our model doesn’t replicate what a tried and true theory has long maintained, there could possibly be something wrong.

Multicollinearity

Most times, when something doesn’t look right in the results of a regression model, it is safe to assume that one of the regression assumptions has been violated. The problem is trying to determine which assumption – or assumptions – was violated. Since the coefficient for “Months Since Last Contribution” has a t-statistic that indicates it isn’t statistically significant, we might suspect that the specification assumption is violated: that is, we may believe that “Months Since Last Contribution” is an extraneous, irrelevant variable that should not have been included in the model and, thus, be removed.

But is that really the case? There can be other reasons why a parameter estimate does not come up significant. If two or more independent variables are highly correlated, the resulting multicollinearity can cause the regression model to assign a statistically insignificant parameter estimate to an important independent variable. So, how can we detect multicollinearity?

Detecting Multicollinearity: Correlation Matrix

The first step in detecting multicollinearity is to examine the correlation among the independent variables. We do this by looking at a correlation matrix. You can run a correlation matrix in Excel by using its Data Analysis ToolPak. Looking at the correlation matrix for our variables, we find:

Correlation Matrix – Original Variables

Variable

Contribution Y

Months Since Last Donation X1

Times Donated in last 12 months

X2

Average Contribution in last 12 months

X3

Contribution (Y)

1.00

  

  

  

Months Since Last Donation – X1

-0.93

1.00

  

  

Times Donated in last 12 months – X2

0.89

-0.88

1.00

  

Average Contribution Last 12 mo. – X3

0.88

-0.84

0.69

1.00

 

A correlation of 1.00 means two variables are perfectly correlated; a correlation of 0.00 means there is absolutely no correlation. The cells in the matrix above, where the correlation is 1.00, shows the correlation of an independent variable with itself – we would expect a perfectly correlated relationship. What is most important to us are the numbers below the 1.00 correlations. The first column shows our dependent variable, “Contribution”. As you go down the column, row by row, you see that each of our independent variables is strongly correlated with the dependent variable, indicating that they are all strong predictors.

The correlation between “Months Since Last Donation” (X1) and the donor’s Contribution (Y) shows a correlation that is almost perfectly negative (-0.93), while those correlations of the dependent variable with each of the other two independent variables is almost perfectly positive with the contribution (0.89 and 0.88). When writing these in shorthand, we use the Greek letter rho, ρ, to denote correlation. Hence, to show the correlation between each independent variable with the dependent variable, we would express them as follows:

ρX1Y = -0.93

ρX2Y = 0.89

ρX3Y = 0.88

But now, let’s look at the correlations among our independent variables:

ρX1X2= -0.88

ρX1X3= -0.84

ρX2X3= 0.69

 

Notice that all of our independent variables are highly correlated with one another. The relationship between “Times Donated in Last 12 Months” and “Average Contribution in Last 12 Months” is not as strong as the correlation between those individual variables with “Months Since Last Donation,” but the correlation is still very strong.

Hence, we can conclude that multicollinearity is present in this model.

Correcting Multicollinearity: Dropping Variables

In today’s post, we will discuss one of the remedies for multicollinearity – dropping a highly correlated independent variable. Next week, we’ll discuss the other approaches to correcting multicollinearity. Sometimes, when a variable is “iffy,” we can save ourselves some trouble and just kick it out. If we were to ignore “Months Since Last Donation,” and run our regression with the remaining two variables, we end up with the following regression equation:

Ŷ= 60.68 + 3.37X2 + 0.45X3

We get R2 =0.924, suggesting that we didn’t lose much explanatory power by excluding “Months Since Last Donation.” We also get an F statistic of 103.36, much higher than the 73.90 we had in our original model. A higher F-statistic indicates a model that is more statistically valid. It also reflects the exclusion of one or more extraneous variables. Also, the t-statistics for both independent variables are significant, and they’re even higher than they were in the original model, further indicating increased validity:

Parameter

Coefficient

T-statistic

Significant?

Intercept

60.68

7.24

Yes

Times Donated

3.37

5.83

Yes

Average Contribution

0.45

5.49

Yes

Dropping “Months Since Last Donation” from our analysis worked here. However, dropping variables without a rational decision process can cause new problems. In some cases, dropping a variable can result in specification bias, as we saw in our previous example of predicting profit margin for savings and loan associations a few weeks ago. So, consider dropping variables cautiously.

Next Forecast Friday Topic: More Multicollinearity Remedies

Today, we described one of the ways to remedy multicollinearity – dropping variables. Next week, we will explore two other ways of correcting multicollinearity: obtaining more data and transforming variables. We will also discuss the pitfalls of all three of these remedies, and we will discuss when it’s not worth it to reduce the impact of multicollinearity.

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Multicollinearity is but one of the many problems you can encounter when forecasting. Let Analysights walk you through the forecasting process so that you can spend more time making strategic decisions and less time trying to guess first where business is going. We will make your forecasting efforts seamless, so you can concentrate on running your business. Check out our Web site or call (847) 895-2565.

Forecast Friday Topic: Building Regression Models With Excel

July 8, 2010
 (Twelfth in a series)
We’ve spent the last six weeks discussing regression analysis as a forecasting method. As you have seen, simple regression is a bit tedious to work out by hand, but for multiple regression analysis, you almost always need the aid of a computerized software package. Today I will demonstrate for you how to use the Regression Analysis feature of Microsoft Excel’s1 Analysis ToolPak Add-In. Excel 2007 comes with the Analysis ToolPak Add-In, which you can choose to activate. One way to know if Analysis ToolPak is activated on your version of Excel is to click on the Data tab on your workspace and see if there is a “Data Analysis” icon. The following thumbnail will illustrate:

 

Seeing if the Data Analysis ToolPak Add-In is activated.

Checking for the Data Analysis Add-In

Notice towards the upper right corner of the image, “Data Analysis” is highlighted in orange. The presence of the Data Analysis icon means that we have activated the Analysis ToolPak Add-In. If it wasn’t there, you would need to activate the Add-In, which you could do very easily by clicking the “Office” button in the top left hand corner, then clicking the “Excel Options” button, which will take you through the process of activating your add-in.

Setting up a Regression – Our Data Set

Generally in direct mail marketing, three components that often determine how much one spends – or whether he/she buys at all – are recency, frequency, and monetary value – known in short as RFM. Generally, the longer it has been since one’s last purchase (recency), the less he/she is likely to spend. Hence, we would expect a minus sign by the coefficient for recency. Also, RFM theorizes that the more frequently one buys, the greater his/her purchase. So, we would expect a plus sign by the coefficient for frequency. Finally, the higher the customer’s average purchases (monetary value), the greater his/her spending, so we would also expect a plus sign here. RFM is also used heavily by nonprofits in their capital and contributor campaigns, since they are often heavily reliant upon direct mail.

In our example here, a local nonprofit decided to test whether each RFM component had a relationship to a donor’s contribution, so it randomly selected 20 donors who contributed to its last appeal. Naturally, our dependent variable, Y, was the Contribution amount. The nonprofit also looked at three independent variables: months since last contribution (X1), times donated in last 12 months (X2), and average contribution over the last 12 months (X3). These independent variables represent recency, frequency, and monetary value, respectively. The table below shows our dataset:

Giving Patterns of 20 Donors

Donor

Contribution

Months Since Last Donation

Times Donated in last 12 months

Average Contribution in last 12 months

1

95

10

1

85

2

110

8

2

95

3

100

10

2

90

4

115

8

3

75

5

100

9

1

95

6

120

6

2

100

7

105

9

1

90

8

125

10

1

125

9

105

9

2

100

10

130

4

3

150

11

135

7

4

125

12

150

2

8

150

13

140

4

3

125

14

155

2

9

140

15

140

2

8

130

16

160

2

10

150

17

145

3

6

135

18

165

1

12

150

19

150

3

4

160

20

170

1

12

140

The thumbnail below shows what the data set looks like in Excel:

Data Set in Excel

Regression Data Set in Excel

Running the Regression

To run the regression, we need to select the regression tool from the Analysis ToolPak. We do this by clicking on the Data Analysis Tab. The  next thumbnail shows us what we need to do:

Regression Option

Selecting the Regression option from the Data Analysis ToolPak

After selecting the regression tool, we need to select our independent variables and our dependent variables. It is best to make sure all columns containing your independent variables are adjacent to each other, as they are in columns D, E, and F. Notice that column C from rows 2 to 22 contains our Y-range values (including the column label). In columns D, E, and F, rows 2 through 22 contain their respective X-range values. Notice in the thumbnail how we indicate those column/row positions for Y-range and X-range values.

Regression Options

Regression Options

We also need to decide where to place the regression output and what data we want the output to contain. In the thumbnail below, we choose to have the output placed in a new worksheet, called “Regression Output”, and we also check the box indicating that we want the residuals printed. Also notice that we checked the box “Labels”, so that row 2 won’t be inadvertently added into the model.

Regression Options - Continued

Regression Options - Continued

Looking at the Output

Now we run the regression and get the following output:

Regression Output

Regression Output (residuals not shown)

As you can see, cell B5 contains our R2, equal to .933, indicating that 93.3% of the variation in a donor’s contribution amount is explained by changes in recency, frequency, and monetary value. Also, notice the F-statistic in cell E12. It’s a large, strong 73.90, and cell F12 to the right is 0.00, suggesting the model is significant. (Note, the Significance F in cell F12 and the P-Values in cells E17-E20 for each parameter estimate are quick cues to significance. If you’re using a 95% confidence interval – which we are here – then you want those values to be no higher than 0.05).

Now let’s look at each parameter estimate. Cells B17-B20 contain our regression coefficients. We have the following equation:

Contribution Estimate = 87.27 – 1.80 *Months_Since_Last_Donation + 2.45 *Times_Donated_Last_12_Months + 0.35 *Average_Contribution_Last_12_Months

Simplifying, we have:

Contribution Estimate = 87.27 – 1.80*RECENCY + 2.45*FREQUENCY + 0.35*MONETARY_VALUE

Ŷ = 87.27 – 1.80X1 + 2.45X2 + 0.35X3

Note that even though we opted to display the residuals for each observation, I chose not to show them here.  It would have run below the fold, and would have been difficult to see.  Besides, for our analysis, we’re not going to worry about residuals right now.

Interpreting the Output

As we can see, each month since a donor’s last contribution reduces his contribution by an average of $1.80, when we hold frequency and monetary value constant. Likewise, for each time a donor has given in the last 12 months, the size of his contribution increases by an average of $2.45, holding the other two variables constant. In addition, each one-dollar increase in a donor’s average contribution increases his contribution by an average of 35 cents. Hence, all of our coefficients have the signs we expect.

T-Statistics and P-Values

Next, we need to look at the t-statistics and P-values. As mentioned above, for a 95% confidence interval, a parameter estimate must have a p-value no greater than 0.05 (or 0.10 for a 90% confidence interval, etc.), in order to be significant. In like manner, for a 95% confidence interval, t-statistics should be values of at least 1.96 (slightly higher for small samples, but 1.96 will work) or less than -1.96 if the coefficient is negative, to be significant:

Parameter

Coefficient

T-statistic

Significant?

Intercept

87.27

4.32

Yes

Months since Last

(1.80)

(1.44)

No

Times Donated

2.45

2.87

Yes

Average Contribution

0.35

3.26

Yes

Notice that the coefficient for Months Since Last Donation has a t-statistic of -1.44. It is not significant. Another way to tell whether the parameter estimates are significant is to look at the Lower 95% and Upper 95% values in columns F and G.  If the lower and upper 95% confidence interval values for a parameter estimate are both negative or both positive, they are significant.  However, if the lower 95% value is negative and the upper 95% is positive (as is the case with Months Since Last Donation), then the parameter estimate is not significant, since its confidence interval range crosses zero.  Hence Months Since Last Donation is not significant.  Yet, the model still has a 93.3% coefficient of determination. Does this mean we can drop this variable from our regression? Not so fast!

Regression Violation Present!

Generally, when an independent variable we expect to be an important predictor of our dependent variable comes up as statistically insignificant, it is sometimes a sign of multicollinearity. And that is definitely the case with the nonprofit’s model. That will be our topic in next week’s Forecast Friday post.

Forecasting with the Output

Since we’re going to take on multicollinearity next week, let’s pretend our model is A-OK, and generate some forecasts.

We’ll go to our regression output worksheet, select cells A17 through B20, which contain our regression variables and coefficients, and then click Copy (or do a CTRL-C):

Selecting the Coefficients

Selecting the Coefficients

Next, let’s paste those coefficients and transpose them in another worksheet.  Here’s how to select the “Transpose” option when pasting:

Pasting Data Using the Transpose Option

Next, this is what the result of our transpose will be:

Transposed Data

Transposed Data

Now, the nonprofit organization looks at five prospective donors whom they are planning to solicit. They look at their past giving history as shown in the next thumbnail:

Prospective Donors - Before Applying Model

Knowing this information, we want to multiply those values by their respective coefficients. Take a look at the formula in cell F7 as we do just that, in the next thumbnail:

Forecasting with Regression Output

Note how the cell numbers containing the coefficients have their column letters enveloped in ‘$’. The dollar signs tell Excel that when we copy the formula down the next four rows, that it still reference those cells. Otherwise, for each row down, Excel would multiply each blank cell below the coefficients by the next donor’s information.  Here’s are the forecasts generated:

Forecasts made with Model

Next Forecast Friday Topic: Multicollinearity

Today you learned how to develop regression models using Excel and how to use Excel to interpret the output. You also found out that our model exhibited multicollinearity, a violation of one of the key regression assumptions. Next week and the week after, we will discuss multicollinearity in depth: how to detect it, how to correct it, and when to live with it. We will again be using the nonprofit’s model.  As I’ve said before, models are far from perfect and, as such, should only aid – not replace – the decision-making process.

 1 Note: Excel is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation. Use of Microsoft Excel in this post is intended only for a demonstration of how to use Excel for regression analysis and does not constitute an endorsement of Microsoft Excel or any other Microsoft product by Analysights, LLC.

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Forecast Friday Topic: Multiple Regression Analysis

June 17, 2010

(Ninth in a series)

Quite often, when we try to forecast sales, more than one variable is often involved. Sales depends on how much advertising we do, the price of our products, the price of competitors’ products, the time of the year (if our product is seasonal), and also demographics of the buyers. And there can be many more factors. Hence, we need to measure the impact of all relevant variables that we know drive our sales or other dependent variable. That brings us to the need for multiple regression analysis. Because of its complexity, we will be spending the next several weeks discussing multiple regression analysis in easily digestible parts. Multiple regression is a highly useful technique, but is quite easy to forget if not used often.

Another thing to note, regression analysis is often used for both time series and cross-sectional analysis. Time series is what we have focused on all along. Cross-sectional analysis involves using regression to analyze variables on static data (such as predicting how much money a person will spend on a car based on income, race, age, etc.). We will use examples of both in our discussions of multiple regression.

Determining Parameter Estimates for Multiple Regression

When it comes to deriving the parameter estimates in a multiple regression, the process gets both complicated and tedious, even if you have just two independent variables. We strongly advise you to use the regression features of MS-Excel, or some statistical analysis tool like SAS, SPSS, or MINITAB. In fact, we will not work out the derivation of the parameters with the data sets, but will provide you the results. You are free to run the data we provide on your own to replicate the results we display. I do, however, want to show you the equations for computing the parameter estimates for a three-variable (two independent variables and one dependent variable), and point out something very important.

Let’s assume that sales is your dependent variable, Y, and advertising expenditures and price are your independent variables, X1 and X2, respectively. Also, the coefficients – your parameter estimates will have similar subscripts to correspond to their respective independent variable. Hence, your model will take on the form:

 

Now, how do you go about computing α, β1 and β2? The process is similar to that of a two-variable model, but a little more involved. Take a look:

The subscript “i” represents the individual oberservation.  In time series, the subscript can also be represented with a “t“.

What do you notice about the formulas for computing β1 and β2? First, you notice that the independent variables, X1 and X2, are included in the calculation for each coefficient. Why is this? Because when two or more independent variables are used to estimate the dependent variable, the independent variables themselves are likely to be related linearly as well. In fact, they need to be in order to perform multiple regression analysis. If either β1 or β2 turned out to be zero, then simple regression would be appropriate. However, if we omit one or more independent variables from the model that are related to those variables in the model, we run into serious problems, namely:

Specification Bias (Regression Assumptions Revisited)

Recall from last week’s Forecast Friday discussion on regression assumptions that 1) our equation must correctly specify the true regression model, namely that all relevant variables and no irrelevant variables are included in the model and 2) the independent variables must not be correlated with the error term. If either of these assumptions is violated, the parameter estimates you get will be biased. Looking at the above equations for β1 and β2, we can see that if we excluded one of the independent variables, say X2, from the model, the value derived for β1 will be incorrect because X1 has some relationship with X2. Moreover, X2‘s values are likely to be accounted for in the error terms, and because of its relationship with X1, X1 will be correlated with the error term, violating the second assumption above. Hence, you will end up with incorrect, biased estimators for your regression coefficient, β1.

Omitted Variables are Bad, but Excessive Variables Aren’t Much Better

Since omitting relevant variables can lead to biased parameter estimates, many analysts have a tendency to include any variable that might have any chance of affecting the dependent variable, Y. This is also bad. Additional variables means that you need to estimate more parameters, and that reduces your model’s degrees of freedom and the efficiency (trustworthiness) of your parameter estimates. Generally, for each variable – both dependent and independent – you are considering, you should have at least five data points. So, for a model with three independent variables, your data set should have 20 observations.

Another Important Regression Assumption

One last thing about multiple regression analysis – another assumption, which I deliberately left out of last week’s discussion, since it applies exclusively to multiple regression:

No combination of independent variables should have an exact linear relationship with one another.

OK, so what does this mean? Let’s assume you’re doing a model to forecast the effect of temperature on the speed at which ice melts. You use two independent variables: Celsius temperature and Fahrenheit temperature. What’s the problem here? There is a perfect linear relationship between these two variables. Every time you use a particular value of Fahrenheit temperature, you will get the same value of Celsius temperature. In this case, you will end up with multicollinearity, an assumption violation that results in inefficient parameter estimates. A relationship between independent variables need not be perfectly linear for multicollinearity to exist. Highly correlated variables can do the same thing. For example, independent variables such as “Husband Age” and “Wife Age,” or “Home Value” and “Home Square Footage” are examples of independent variables that are highly correlated.

You want to be sure that you do not put variables in the model that need not be there, because doing so could lead to multicollinearity.

Now Can We Get Into Multiple Regression????

Wasn’t that an ordeal? Well, now the fun can begin! I’m going to use an example from one of my old graduate school textbooks, because it’s good for several lessons in multiple regression. This data set is 25 annual observations to predict the percentage profit margin (Y) for U.S. savings and loan associations, based on changes in net revenues per deposit dollar (X1) and number of offices (X2). The data are as follows:

Year

Percentage Profit Margin (Yt)

Net Revenues Per Deposit Dollar (X1t)

Number of Offices (X2t)

1

0.75

3.92

7,298

2

0.71

3.61

6,855

3

0.66

3.32

6,636

4

0.61

3.07

6,506

5

0.70

3.06

6,450

6

0.72

3.11

6,402

7

0.77

3.21

6,368

8

0.74

3.26

6,340

9

0.90

3.42

6,349

10

0.82

3.42

6,352

11

0.75

3.45

6,361

12

0.77

3.58

6,369

13

0.78

3.66

6,546

14

0.84

3.78

6,672

15

0.79

3.82

6,890

16

0.70

3.97

7,115

17

0.68

4.07

7,327

18

0.72

4.25

7,546

19

0.55

4.41

7,931

20

0.63

4.49

8,097

21

0.56

4.70

8,468

22

0.41

4.58

8,717

23

0.51

4.69

8,991

24

0.47

4.71

9,179

25

0.32

4.78

9,318

Data taken from Spellman, L.J., “Entry and profitability in a rate-free savings and loan market.” Quarterly Review of Economics and Business, 18, no. 2 (1978): 87-95, Reprinted in Newbold, P. and Bos, T., Introductory Business & Economic Forecasting, 2nd Edition, Cincinnati (1994): 136-137

What is the relationship between the S&Ls’ profit margin percentage and the number of S&L offices? How about between the margin percentage and the net revenues per deposit dollar? Is the relationship positive (that is, profit margin percentage moves in the same direction as its independent variable(s))? Or negative (the dependent and independent variables move in opposite directions)? Let’s look at each independent variable’s individual relationship with the dependent variable.

Net Revenue Per Deposit Dollar (X1) and Percentage Profit Margin (Y)

Generally, if revenue per deposit dollar goes up, would we not expect the percentage profit margin to also go up? After all, if the S & L is making more revenue on the same dollar, it suggests more efficiency. Hence, we expect a positive relationship. So, in the resulting regression equation, we would expect the coefficient, β1, for net revenue per deposit dollar to have a “+” sign.

Number of S&L Offices (X2) and Percentage Profit Margin (Y)

Generally, if there are more S&L offices, would that not suggest either higher overhead, increased competition, or some combination of the two? Those would cut into profit margins. Hence, we expect a negative relationship. So, in the resulting regression equation, we would expect the coefficient, β2, for number of S&L offices to have a “-” sign.

Are our Expectations Correct?

Do our relationship expectations hold up?  They certainly do. The estimated multiple regression model is:

Yt = 1.56450 + 0.23720X1t – 0.000249X2t

What do the Parameter Estimates Mean?

Essentially, the model says that if net revenues per deposit dollar (X1t) increase by one unit, then percentage profit margin (Yt) will – on average – increase by 0.23720 percentage points, when the number of S&L offices is fixed. If the number of offices (X2t) increases by one, then percentage profit margin (Yt) will decrease by an average of 0.000249 percentage points, when net revenues are fixed.

Do Changes in the Independent Variables Explain Changes in The Dependent Variable?

We compute the coefficient of determination, R2, and get 0.865, indicating that changes in the number of S&L offices and in the net revenue per deposit dollar explain 86.5% of the variation in S&L percentage profit margin.

Are the Parameter Estimates Statistically Significant?

We have 25 observations, and three parameters – two coefficients for the independent variables, and one intercept – hence we have 22 degrees of freedom (25-3). If we choose a 95% confidence interval, we are saying that if we resampled and replicated this analysis 100 times, the average of our parameter estimates will be contain the true parameter approximately 95 times. To do this, we need to look at the t-values for each parameter estimate. For a two-tailed 95% significance test with 22 degrees of freedom, our critical t-value is 2.074. That means that if the t-statistic for a parameter estimate is greater than 2.074, then there is a strong positive relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable; if the t-statistic for the parameter estimate is less than -2.074, then there is a strong negative relationship. This is what we get:

Parameter

Value

T-Statistic

Significant?

Intercept

1.5645000

19.70

Yes

B1t

0.2372000

4.27

Yes

B2t

(0.0002490)

(7.77)

Yes

So, yes, all our parameter estimates are significant.

Next Forecast Friday: Building on What You Learned

I think you’ve had enough for this week! But we are still not finished. We’re going to stop here and continue with further analysis of this example next week. Next week, we will discuss computing the 95% confidence interval for the parameter estimates; determining whether the model is valid; and checking for autocorrelation. The following Forecast Friday (July 1) blog post will discuss specification bias in greater detail, demonstrating the impact of omitting a key independent variable from the model.

Forecast Friday Topic: Prelude to Multiple Regression Analysis – Regression Assumptions

June 10, 2010

(Eighth in a series)

In last week’s Forecast Friday post, we continued our discussion of simple linear regression analysis, discussing how to check both the slope and intercept coefficients for significance. We then discussed how to create a prediction interval for our forecasts. I had intended this week’s Forecast Friday post to delve straight into multiple regression analysis, but have decided instead to spend some time talking about the assumptions that go into building a regression model.  These assumptions apply to both simple and multiple regression analysis, but their importance is especially noticeable with multiple regression, and I feel it is best to make you aware of them, so that when we discuss multiple regression both as a time series and as a causal/econometric forecasting tool, you’ll know how to detect and correct regression models that violate these assumptions. We will formally begin our discussion of multiple regression methods next week.

Five Key Assumptions for Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) Regression

When we develop our parameter estimates for our regression model, we want to make sure that all of our estimators have the smallest variance. Recall that when you were computing the value of your estimate, b, for the parameter β, in the equation below:

You were subtracting your independent variable’s average from each of its actual values, and doing likewise for the dependent variable. You then multiplied those two quantities together (for each observation) and summed them up to get the numerator of that calculation. To get the denominator, you again subtracted the independent variable’s mean from each of its actual values and then squared them. Then you summed those up. The calculation of the denominator is the focal point here: the value you get for your estimate of β is the estimate that minimizes the squared error for your model. Hence, the term, least squares. If you were to take the denominator of the equation above and divide it by your sample size (less one: n-1), you would get the variance of your independent variable, X. This variance is something you also want to minimize, so that your estimate of β is efficient. When your parameter estimates are efficient, you can make stronger statistical statements about them.

We also want to be sure that our estimators are free of bias. That is, we want to be sure that our sample estimate, b, is on average, equal to our true population parameter, β. That is, if we calculated several estimates of β, the average of our b’s should equal β.

Essentially, there are five assumptions that must be made to ensure our estimators are unbiased and efficient:

Assumption #1: The regression equation correctly specifies the true model.

In order to correctly specify the true model, the relationship between the dependent and independent variable must be linear. Also, we must neither exclude relevant independent variables from nor include irrelevant independent variables in our regression equation. If any of these conditions are not met – that is, Assumption #1 is violated – then our parameter estimates will exhibit bias, particularly specification bias.

In addition, our independent and dependent variables must be measured accurately. For example, if we are trying to estimate salary based on years of schooling, we want to make sure our model is measuring years of schooling as actual years of schooling, and not desired years of schooling.

Assumption #2: The independent variables are fixed numbers and not correlated with error terms.

I warned you at the start of our discussion of linear regression that the error terms were going to be important. Let’s start with the notion of fixed numbers. When you are running a regression analysis, the values of each independent variable should not change every time you test of the equation. That is, the values of your independent variables are known and controlled by you. In addition, the independent variables should not be correlated with the error term. If an independent variable is correlated with the error term, then it is very possible a relevant independent variable was excluded from the equation. If Assumption #2 is violated, then your parameter estimates will be biased.

Assumption #3: The error terms ε, have a mean, or expected value, of zero.

As you noticed in the past blog post, when we developed our regression equation for Sue Stone’s monthly sales, we went back in and plugged each observation’s independent variable into our model and generated estimates of sales for that month. We then subtracted the estimated sales from the actual. Some of our estimates were higher than average, some were lower. Summing up all these errors, they should equal zero. If they don’t, they will result in a biased estimate of the intercept, a (which we use to estimate α). This assumption is not of serious concern, however, since the intercept is often of secondary importance to the slope estimate. We also assume that the error terms are normally distributed.

Assumption #4: The error terms have a constant variance.

The variance of the error term for all values of Xi should be constant, that is, the error terms should be homoscedastic. Visually, if you were to plot the line generated by your regression equation, and then plot the error terms for each observation as points above or below the regression line, the points should cluster around the line in a band of equal width above and below the regression line. If, instead, the points began to move further and further away from the regression line as the value of X increased, then the error terms are heteroscedastic, and the constant variance assumption is violated. Heteroscedasticity does not bias parameter estimates, but makes them inefficient, or untrustworthy.

Why does heteroscedasticity occur? Sometimes, a data set has some observations whose values for the independent variable are vastly different from those of the other observations. These cases are known as outliers. For example, if you have five observations, and their X values were as follows:

{ 5, 6, 6, 7, 20}

The fifth observation would be the outlier, since its X value of 20 is so different from that of the four previous observations. Regression equations place excessive weight on extreme values. Let’s assume that you were trying to construct a model to predict new car purchases based on income. You choose “household income” as your dependent variable and “new car spending” as the dependent variable. You survey 10 people who bought a new car, and you record both their income and the amount they paid for the car. You sort each respondent in order by income and look at their spending, as depicted in the table below:

Respondent

Annual Income

New Car Purchase Price

1

$30,000

$25,900

2

$32,500

$27,500

3

$35,000

$26,000

4

$37,500

$29,000

5

$40,000

$32,000

6

$42,500

$30,500

7

$45,000

$34,000

8

$47,500

$26,500

9

$50,000

$38,000

10

$52,500

$40,000

 

Do you notice the pattern that as income increases, the new car purchase price tends to move upward? For the most part, it does. But, does it go up consistently? No. Notice how respondent #3 spent less for a car than the two respondents with lower incomes; respondent #8 spent much less for a car than lower-income respondents 4-7. Respondent #8 is an outlier. This happens because lower-income households are limited in their options for new cars, while higher-income households have more options. A low-income respondent may be limited to buying a Ford Focus or a Honda Civic; but a higher-income respondent may be able to buy a Lexus or BMW, yet still choose to buy the Civic or the Focus. Heteroscedasticity is very likely to occur with this data set. In case you haven’t guessed, heteroscedasticity is more likely to occur with cross-sectional data, rather than with time series data.

Assumption #5: The error terms are not correlated with each other.

Knowing the error term for any of our observations should not allow us to predict the error term of any other observation; the errors must be truly random. If they aren’t, autocorrelation results and the parameter estimates are inefficient, though unbiased. Autocorrelation is much more common with time series data than with cross-sectional data, and occurs because past occurrences can influence future ones. A good example of this is when I was building a regression model to help a college forecast enrollment. I started by building a simple time series regression model, then examined the errors and detected autocorrelation. How did it happen? Because most students who are enrolled in the Fall term are also likely to be enrolled again in the consecutive Spring term. Hence, I needed to correct for that autocorrelation. Similarly, while a company’s advertising expenditures in April may impact its sales in April, they are also likely to have some impact on its sales in May. This too can cause autocorrelation.

When these assumptions are kept, your regression equation is likely to contain parameter estimates that are the “best, linear, unbiased estimators” or BLUE. Keep these in mind as we go through our upcoming discussions on multiple regression.

Next Forecast Friday Topic: Regression with Two or More Independent Variables

Next week, we will plunge into our discussion of multiple regression. I will give you an example of how multiple variables are used to forecast a single dependent variable, and how to check for validity. As we go through the next couple of discussions, I will show you how to analyze the error terms to find violations of the regression assumptions. I will also show you how to determine the validity of the model, and to identify whether all independent variables within your model are relevant.