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st: numeric and string variables [was: Hello all & I'm sorry to do this again, but..]
Jon Ebeling sent various mails arising from some
confusion over getting Stata to show underlying
numeric information when a numeric variable has
value labels associated. Jon also got confused
between commands and functions. (Incidentally,
please use informative titles in your postings.)
As Renzo Comolli pointed out, the -nolabel- option
is available in -tabulate- (and also in -list-,
-edit-, etc.) for this need, so there is, it
seems, no need to convert anything to anything else.
In general, conversion syntax comes in pairs:
1. The -encode- command takes a string variable and uses
it to generate a numeric variable with value labels.
This is essential for some statistical commands
which will not accept categorical variables held
as strings, and often a good idea otherwise.
-decode- does the reverse.
2. -real()- and -string()- functions are brute
force, direct ways of converting from one
form to another. They appear within
-generate- and -replace- commands. If you
know exactly what you're doing and do not
fear loss of information, they may be the
solution to your problem.
3. -destring- and -tostring- are safer ways
to go from string to numeric or numeric to string.
Both can be applied to several variables and both have
extra features to stop you losing information in your data
and to cope with common complications.
There was a longer discussion of associated
issues in "Speaking Stata: On numbers and strings",
Stata Journal 2(3):314--329 (2002).
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