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Re: st: Stata vs SPSS


From   "Raphael Fraser" <raphael.fraser@gmail.com>
To   statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
Subject   Re: st: Stata vs SPSS
Date   Mon, 16 Oct 2006 10:35:58 -0500

On 10/15/06, Richard Williams <Richard.A.Williams.5@nd.edu> wrote:
However, I suspect that isn't the kind of thing your students were
complaining about!  Who are these people, what is the field of study,
what sorts of things are they going to need to do in their future
careers?
These are graduate students majoring in Nutrition or Epidemiology.
They are being trained primarily for academic research. They are going
to be expected to perform simple statistical analyses (t-test, etc.)
and data manipulation.

Raphael

On 10/15/06, Richard Williams <Richard.A.Williams.5@nd.edu> wrote:
At 03:47 PM 10/13/2006, Raphael Fraser wrote:
>I am being persecuted by some of my students for having to learn Stata
>rather than SPSS. "SPSS is so easy to use" they say. "Why do we have
>to type every thing?" one student complained. This is always the case
>in my Intro to Stata classes but at the end of the course they show
>much appreciation for learning Stata especially when they have to do
>data manipulation. But this year is different. There is a student
>rebellion. They see me as a "Stata Dictator" and is desirous of
>"Democracy." So I have decided to be more "diplomatic" with a Stata vs
>SPSS comparison.

Interesting to hear some of the comments that have come out.  I
myself have never had to produce 102 esoterically formatted tables;
for me outreg2 and estout are more than adequate for my needs,
although obviously this is a problem for others.  I've always
suspected that SPSS and SAS devote 90% of their code to user
interface and formatting output, and I can see why based on some of
these comments.

However, I suspect that isn't the kind of thing your students were
complaining about!  Who are these people, what is the field of study,
what sorts of things are they going to need to do in their future
careers?  If all they are going to do is run frequencies and OLS
regressions with non-weighted data sets, it may not matter too much
which package they are going to use.

You could, of course, be like me, and teach both packages!  That is
more historical accident than anything else, as I have used SPSS for
almost 30 years and only started using Stata a few years ago.  But,
it doesn't hurt to be multilingual.  I don't think either package is
all that difficult, at least for basic stuff.

Some of the things I stress to students are
1) Much easier hypothesis testing, e.g. testing that the effects of
x1 and x2 are equal is much easier in Stata
2) Stata is much faster for typing basic commands - can anybody
remember SPSS's syntax for regression and logistic regression?  Sure,
the SPSS pulldown menus make things easier but they also slow you up.
3) Just try doing something like robust standard errors in SPSS.  A
student asked me how to do that once, and we finally found about a 10
page SPSS program that did it!
4) Complicated survey designs can be handled easily by Stata.  Not so
with SPSS.
5) Try running a logistic regression with a large data set in both
programs.  Stata is far faster.
6) Various advanced methods are implemented or better implemented in
Stata.  For example, categorical data analysis.
7) SPSS documentation is free but is little more than a syntax
guide.  The Stata manuals are expensive but vastly more
informative.  Not only do you get the syntax, but you get a basic
overview of the statistical theory behind the commands.

Again, though, it is not that hard to know both SPSS and Stata.  SAS
may be more of a challenge.  I think the main difficulties come when
you are doing complicated data manipulations or highly customized
outputting of results.  But I'm not sure how many people need to do
that on a routine basis.


-------------------------------------------
Richard Williams, Notre Dame Dept of Sociology
OFFICE: (574)631-6668, (574)631-6463
FAX:    (574)288-4373
HOME:   (574)289-5227
EMAIL:  Richard.A.Williams.5@ND.Edu
WWW (personal):    http://www.nd.edu/~rwilliam
WWW (department):    http://www.nd.edu/~soc

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