- Effect sizes
- Continuous data: Hedges's
*g*, Cohen's*d*, and more - Binary data: Odds ratios, risk ratios, and more
- Generic (precalculated) effect sizes

- Continuous data: Hedges's
- Meta-analysis models and methods
- Common-effect
- Fixed-effects
- Random-effects
- Nine estimation methods

- Forest plots
- Fully customizable
- Subgroup plots
- Cumulative plots

- Heterogeneity
- Summary measures and homogeneity test
- L'Abbé plots for binary data
- Subgroup analysis
- Meta-regression
- Bubble plots

- Small-study effects and publication bias
- Funnel plots: Standard and contour-enhanced
- Tests for funnel-plot asymmetry
- Trim-and-fill analysis of publication bias

- Cumulative meta-analysis

Meta-analysis combines the results of multiple studies that answer similar research questions. Does exercise prolong life? Does lack of sleep increase the risk of cancer? Does daylight saving save energy? And more. Many studies attempt to answer such questions, and some report inconclusive or even conflicting results. Meta-analysis helps aggregate the information, often overwhelming, from many studies in a principled way into one unified final conclusion or provides the reason why such a conclusion cannot be reached.

Stata has a long history of meta-analysis methods contributed by Stata
researchers, for instance, Palmer and Sterne (2016). Stata
now offers the new suite of commands, **meta**,
to perform meta-analysis. The new
suite is broad, yet one of its strengths is its simplicity.

Let's quickly look at one possible workflow. Also see the summary of all features in Summary of features in four tables and more examples in Let's see it work.

- 1. Prepare your data for meta-analysis
- 2. Obtain meta-analysis summary
- 3. Explore heterogeneity
- 4. Investigate small-study effects and publication bias

** 1. Prepare your data for meta-analysis**. Tell

.meta set es se

or that you have binary summary data and want to compute, for instance, log odds-ratios,

.meta esize n11 n12 n21 n22, esize(lnoratio)

or that you have continuous summary data and want to compute, for instance,
Hedges's *g* standardized mean differences,

.meta esize n1 mean1 sd1 n2 mean2 sd2, esize(hedgesg)

** 2. Obtain meta-analysis summary**. Estimate overall effect size and its CI,
obtain heterogeneity statistics, and more:

.meta summarize

Or produce a forest plot:

.meta forestplot

** 3. Explore heterogeneity**. Perform subgroup meta-analysis:

.meta forestplot, subgroup(group)

Or meta-regression:

.meta regress i.group x

* 4. Investigate small-study effects and publication bias*. Produce a
funnel plot:

.meta funnelplot

Check whether funnel-plot asymmetry is due to publication bias using a contour-enhanced funnel plot:

.meta funnelplot, contours(1 5 10)

Test formally for funnel-plot asymmetry:

.meta bias, egger

Assess publication bias using the trim-and-fill method:

.meta trimfill

Also see the summary of all features in Summary of features in four tables. For more examples, see Let's see it work.

Table 1. Three analysis models |

Model Estimates |

Common-effect single overall effect |

Fixed-effects weighted average of study effects |

Random-effects mean of the distribution of effects |

Table 2. Estimation methods

Model Methods |

Common-effect inverse-variance, Mantel–Haenszel (binary data) |

Fixed-effects inverse-variance, Mantel–Haenszel (binary data) |

Random-effects REML, ML, empirical Bayes, DerSimonian–Laird, Sidik–Jonkman, Hedges, Hunter–Schmidt |

Table 3. meta works with three types of data: Observations
record studies and ... |

Dataset format Variables record |

Binary-outcome summaries # of successes (treated) |

# of failures (treated) |

# of successes (controls) |

# of failures (controls) |

Continuous-outcome summaries sample size (treated) |

mean (treated) |

std. dev. (treated) |

sample size (controls) |

mean (controls) |

std. dev. (controls) |

Precomputed effect sizes effect size (correlation, HR, OR, mean difference, etc.) |

std. err. or CI of effect size |

Table 4. The meta commands |

Command Purpose |

meta set declare data using precalculated effect sizes |

meta esize declare data (calculate effect sizes) |

meta update modify declaration of meta data |

meta query report how meta data are set |

meta summarize summarize meta-analysis results |

meta forestplot graph forest plots |

meta regress perform meta-regression |

predict predict random effects, etc. |

estat bubbleplot graph bubble plots |

meta labbeplot graph L'Abbé plots |

meta funnelplot graph funnel plots |

meta bias test for small-study effects |

meta trimfill trim-and-fill analysis |

- Example dataset: Effects of teacher expectancy on pupil IQ
- Prepare your data for meta-analysis
- Meta-analysis summary
- Forest plot
- Heterogeneity
- Summary measures and homogeneity test
- Subgroup analysis
- Meta-regression
- Postestimation: bubble plots
- Small-study effects and publication bias
- Cumulative meta-analysis

To demonstrate the **meta** suite, we use the famous example from
Raudenbush (1984) of the meta-analysis of 19 studies that evaluated the
effects of teacher expectancy on pupil IQ. In their original study,
Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) discovered the so-called Pygmalion effect, in which
expectations of teachers affected outcomes of their students.

The goal of the experiment was to investigate whether the identification of the randomly selected group of students (experimental group) to teachers as "likely to show dramatic intellectual growth'' would influence teachers' expectations for these students. The authors found a statistically significant effect between the experimental and control groups with respect to students' IQ scores.

Later studies attempted to replicate the results, but many did not find the hypothesized effect. Raudenbush (1984) suspected that the Pygmalion effect might be mitigated by how long the teachers had worked with the students before the experiment.

See Example datasets in [META] **meta** for details about this example.

We load the dataset and describe some of its variables below.

.webuse pupiliq(Effects of teacher expectancy on pupil IQ) .describe studylbl stdmdiff se week1

storage display value |

variable name type format label variable label |

studylbl str26 %26s Study label |

stdmdiff double %9.0g Standardized difference in means |

se double %10.0g Standard error of stdmdiff |

week1 byte %9.0g catweek1 Prior teacher-student contact > 1 week |

**stdmdiff** and **se** record precomputed effect sizes, standardized
mean differences between the experimental and control groups, and their
standard errors.

**studylbl** contains study labels, which include the authors and
publication years.

**weeks** records the number of weeks of prior contact between the teacher
and the students. **week1** is the dichotomized version of **weeks**,
which records the high-contact (**week1=1**) and low-contact
(**week1=0**) groups.

Declaring the meta-analysis data is the first step of your meta-analysis in
Stata. During this step, you specify the main information needed for
meta-analysis such as the study-specific effect sizes and their standard
errors. You declare this information once by using either
**meta set** or **meta esize**, and it is then used by all
**meta** commands. The declaration step helps minimize potential mistakes and typing; see
[META] meta data for details.

Let's declare our pupil IQ data. Our dataset contains
already calculated effect sizes (**stdmdiff**) and their standard errors
(**se**), so we use **meta set** for
declaration. If you have study-specific summary data and want to compute
effect sizes, see **meta esize**.

.meta set stdmdiff se, studylabel(studylbl) eslabel(Std. Mean Diff.)

Meta-analysis setting information |

Study information |

No. of studies: 19 |

Study label: studylbl |

Study size: N/A |

Effect size |

Type: Generic |

Label: Std. Mean Diff. |

Variable: stdmdiff |

Precision |

Std. Err.: se |

CI: [_meta_cil, _meta_ciu] |

CI level: 95% |

Model and method |

Model: Random-effects |

Method: REML |

We also specified how we want the **meta** commands to label studies and
effect sizes in the output.

In addition to our specifications, **meta set** reported other settings
that will be used by **meta** by default such as those for the meta-analysis
model and method. **meta**'s default is a random-effects model with the REML
estimation method, but you can specify any other of the supported methods;
see
Declaring a meta-analysis model.
Also see [META] meta data
for more information about how to declare the meta-analysis data.

After the declaration, you can use
**meta query** or
**meta update** to
describe or update your current meta settings at any point of your
meta-analysis.

We are now ready to proceed with meta-analysis.

After the declaration, you can use any of the **meta** commands to
perform meta-analysis.

For instance, we can use **meta summarize** to obtain basic meta-analysis
summary results and display them in a table:

.meta summarizeEffect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. Effect size: stdmdiff Std. Err.: se Study label: studylbl Meta-analysis summary Number of studies = 19 Random-effects model Heterogeneity: Method: REML tau2 = 0.0188 I2 (%) = 41.84 H2 = 1.72 Effect Size: Std. Mean Diff.

Study | Effect Size [95% Conf. Interval] % Weight | |

Rosenthal et al., 1974 | 0.030 -0.215 0.275 7.74 | |

Conn et al., 1968 | 0.120 -0.168 0.408 6.60 | |

Jose & Cody, 1971 | -0.140 -0.467 0.187 5.71 | |

Pellegrini & Hicks, 1972 | 1.180 0.449 1.911 1.69 | |

Pellegrini & Hicks, 1972 | 0.260 -0.463 0.983 1.72 | |

Evans & Rosenthal, 1969 | -0.060 -0.262 0.142 9.06 | |

Fielder et al., 1971 | -0.020 -0.222 0.182 9.06 | |

Claiborn, 1969 | -0.320 -0.751 0.111 3.97 | |

Kester, 1969 | 0.270 -0.051 0.591 5.84 | |

Maxwell, 1970 | 0.800 0.308 1.292 3.26 | |

Carter, 1970 | 0.540 -0.052 1.132 2.42 | |

Flowers, 1966 | 0.180 -0.257 0.617 3.89 | |

Keshock, 1970 | -0.020 -0.586 0.546 2.61 | |

Henrikson, 1970 | 0.230 -0.338 0.798 2.59 | |

Fine, 1972 | -0.180 -0.492 0.132 6.05 | |

Grieger, 1970 | -0.060 -0.387 0.267 5.71 | |

Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968 | 0.300 0.028 0.572 6.99 | |

Fleming & Anttonen, 1971 | 0.070 -0.114 0.254 9.64 | |

Ginsburg, 1970 | -0.070 -0.411 0.271 5.43 | |

theta | 0.084 -0.018 0.185 | |

Or we can use **meta forestplot** to produce results on a forest plot:

.meta forestplot

Effect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. |

Effect size: stdmdiff |

Std. Err.: se |

Study label: studylbl |

Both commands include the information about study-specific effect sizes and their CIs, in addition to the estimate of the overall effect size and its CI. For instance, from the plot, the estimated overall standardized mean difference is 0.08 with a 95% CI of [-0.02, 0.18].

Various heterogeneity measures and tests are also reported; we explore them below in Heterogeneity.

For more interpretation of the results, see
Basic meta-analysis summary in [META] **meta**.
For details about the commands, see
[META] meta summarize and
[META] meta forestplot.

In meta-analysis, heterogeneity occurs when variation between the study
effect sizes cannot be explained by sampling variability alone.
**meta summarize** and **meta forestplot**
report basic heterogeneity measures and the homogeneity test to assess
the presence of heterogeneity.

When there are study-level covariates, also known as moderators, that may explain some of the between-study variability, heterogeneity can be explored further via subgroup analysis and, more generally, via meta-regression. Subgroup analysis is used with categorical moderators, and meta-regression is used when at least one of the moderators is continuous.

Consider the forest plot we produced in Meta-analysis summary.

The between-study variation of the effect sizes is evident from the forest
plot. The reported heterogeneity statistics indicate the presence of
heterogeneity in these data. For instance, *I²* is estimated to be 41.84%,
which, according to Higgins et al. (2003), indicates the presence of
"medium heterogeneity".

The test of homogeneity of study-specific effect sizes is also rejected, with
a chi-squared test statistic of 35.83 and a *p*-value of 0.01.

Subgroup analysis is used when study effect
sizes are expected to be more homogeneous within certain groups. The grouping
variables can be specified in option **subgroup()** supported by
**meta summarize** and **meta forestplot**.

In Summary measures and homogeneity test, we established the presence of heterogeneity between the study results. As we said in Example dataset: Effects of teacher expectancy on pupil IQ, it was suspected that the amount of contact between the teachers and students before the experiment may explain some of the between-study variability.

Let's first consider the binary variable **week1** that divides the
studies into the high-contact (**week1=1**) and low-contact
(**week1=0**) groups. (Below Meta-regression, we explore the impact of
continuous **weeks** on the effect sizes.)

For categorical variables, we can perform subgroup analysis—separate meta-analysis for each group—to explore heterogeneity between the groups.

.meta forestplot, subgroup(week1)

Effect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. |

Effect size: stdmdiff |

Std. Err.: se |

Study label: studylbl |

Option **subgroup()** can be used with **meta forestplot** and **meta
summarize** to perform subgroup analysis. In our example, we specified only
one grouping variable, **week1**, but you can include more, provided
you have a sufficient number of studies per group.

After stratifying on the contact group, the results appear to be more
homogeneous, particularly within the high-contact group (**> 1 week**). The
test of no differences between the groups, reported at the bottom of the graph, is rejected
with a chi-squared test statistic of 14.77 and a *p*-value less than
0.01.

Also see Subgroup meta-analysis in [META] **meta**.

Meta-regression is often used to explore heterogeneity induced by the
relationship between moderators and study effect sizes. Moderators may include
a mixture of continuous and categorical variables. In Stata, you perform
meta-regression by using **meta regress**.

Continuing with our heterogeneity analysis, let's use meta-regression to explore
the relationship between study-specific effect sizes and the amount of prior
teacher–student contact (**weeks**).

.meta regress weeksEffect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. Effect size: stdmdiff Std. Err.: se Random-effects meta-regression Number of obs = 19 Method: REML Residual heterogeneity: tau2 = .01117 I2 (%) = 29.36 H2 = 1.42 R-squared (%) = 40.70 Wald chi2(1) = 7.51 Prob > chi2 = 0.0061 _cons

_meta_es | Coef. Std. Err. z P>|z| [95% Conf. Interval] | |

weeks | -.0157453 .0057447 -2.74 0.006 -.0270046 -.0044859 | |

.1941774 .0633563 3.06 0.002 .0700013 .3183535 | ||

There is a statistically significant negative relationship between the magnitudes of the effect sizes and the number of weeks of prior contact: the more time teachers spent with students before the experiment, the smaller the estimated effect size.

After accounting for **weeks**, we find that the remaining between-study residual
heterogeneity is roughly 30%.

Also see
Heterogeneity: Meta-regression and bubble plot in
[META] **meta** and [META] meta regress.

Continuing with Meta-regression, we can produce a bubble plot after meta-regression with one continuous covariate to explore the relationship between the effect sizes and the covariate.

.estat bubbleplot

The standardized mean difference decreases as the number of weeks of prior
teacher–student contact increases. There are also several outlying studies in
the region where **weeks** is less than roughly 3 weeks. The size of the
bubbles represents the precision of the studies. Some of the outlying studies
also appear to be among the more precise studies.

Also see
Heterogeneity: Meta-regression and bubble plot
in [META] **meta**, [META] estat bubbleplot, and, more generally,
[META] meta regress postestimation.

The term "small-study effects'' refers to situations where the effects of smaller studies differ systematically from the effects of larger studies. For instance, smaller studies may report larger effect sizes than larger studies. Two common reasons for the presence of small-study effects are between-study heterogeneity and publication bias.

Publication bias arises when the decision of whether to publish a study's results depends on the significance of the obtained results. Often, smaller studies with nonsignificant findings are suppressed from publication. This may lead to a biased sample of studies in a meta-analysis, which is often collected from the published studies.

The **meta** suite provides three commands you can use to explore
small-study effects and publication bias.

**meta funnelplot** produces standard and contour-enhanced funnel plots,
which can be used to explore small-study effects and publication bias visually.

**meta bias** provides several statistical tests for small-study
effects, also known as tests for funnel-plot asymmetry.

**meta trimfill** performs nonparametric trim-and-fill analysis that
explores the sensitivity of the meta-analysis results to potentially omitted
studies.

We demonstrate these commands in what follows.

To demonstrate, let's produce a funnel plot for the pupil IQ data.

.meta funnelplot

Effect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. |

Effect size: stdmdiff |

Std. Err.: se |

Model: Common-effect |

Method: Inverse-variance |

In the absence of publication bias and, more generally, small-study effects, the funnel plot should resemble a symmetric inverted funnel. In our example, it appears that a few points (studies) are missing in the lower left portion of the funnel plot, which makes it look asymmetric.

Recall, however, that in our earlier heterogeneity analysis, we established the presence of between-study variability. Thus, this may be one of the reasons for the asymmetry of the funnel plot.

Contour-enhanced funnel plots are often used to explore whether the funnel-plot asymmetry is due to publication bias or perhaps some other factors. Let's add the 1%, 5%, and 10% significance contours to our funnel plot.

.meta funnelplot, contours(1 5 10)

Effect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. |

Effect size: stdmdiff |

Std. Err.: se |

Model: Common-effect |

Method: Inverse-variance |

Based on the contour-enhanced funnel plot, it appears that we are missing a few smaller studies that fall both in the significant and nonsignificant regions of the funnel plot. Under publication bias, we are likely to see missing smaller studies only in the nonsignificant regions. So, perhaps, the funnel-plot asymmetry in our example is due to some other reason such as heterogeneity.

In fact, the meta-analysis literature recommends that the heterogeneity be addressed before the exploration of the publication bias. For instance, in our example, we can produce funnel plots separately for each contact group.

.meta funnelplot, by(week1)

Effect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. |

Effect size: stdmdiff |

Std. Err.: se |

Model: Common-effect |

Method: Inverse-variance |

Within each contact group, funnel plots look more symmetric.

Also see
Funnel plots for exploring small-study effects
in [META] **meta** and [META] meta funnelplot.

Continuing with Standard and contour-enhanced funnel plots, we can use one of the statistical tests to test formally for the funnel-plot asymmetry. These are also known as tests for small-study effects.

Let's use the Egger regression-based test to test for the funnel-plot asymmetry in the pupil IQ data.

.meta bias, egger

Effect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. |

Effect size: stdmdiff |

Std. Err.: se |

Regression-based Egger test for small-study effects |

Random-effects model |

Method: REML |

H0: beta1 = 0; no small-study effects |

beta1 = 1.83 |

SE of beta1 = 0.724 |

z = 2.53 |

Prob > |z| = 0.0115 |

The null hypothesis of no small-study effects or, equivalently, of the
symmetry of the funnel plot is rejected at the 5% significance level with a
*z* statistic of 2.53 and a *p*-value of 0.0115.

But, if we account for the between-study heterogeneity due to **week1**,
the results of the test are no longer statistically significant.

.meta bias week1, egger

Effect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. |

Effect size: stdmdiff |

Std. Err.: se |

Regression-based Egger test for small-study effects |

Random-effects model |

Method: REML |

Moderators: week1 |

H0: beta1 = 0; no small-study effects |

beta1 = 0.30 |

SE of beta1 = 0.729 |

z = 0.41 |

Prob > |z| = 0.6839 |

Also see
Testing for small-study effects in
[META] **meta** and [META] meta bias.

In the presence of publication bias, it is useful to explore its impact on the meta-analysis results. One way to do this is to perform trim-and-fill analysis.

In Standard and contour-enhanced funnel plots and Tests for funnel-plot asymmetry, we detected the asymmetry of the funnel plot but commented that this may be because of heterogeneity rather than publication bias. In fact, the contour-enhanced funnel plot suggested that the asymmetry is likely not because of publication bias. But, for the purpose of this demonstration, let's go ahead and pretend that the observed asymmetry in the funnel plot is induced by publication bias and that we want to explore its impact on our meta-analysis results.

.meta trimfill, funnelEffect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. Effect size: stdmdiff Std. Err.: se Nonparametric trim-and-fill analysis of publication bias Linear estimator, imputing on the left Iteration Number of studies = 22 Model: Random-effects observed = 19 Method: REML imputed = 3 Pooling Model: Random-effects Method: REML

Studies | Std. Mean Diff. [95% Conf. Interval] | |

Observed | 0.084 -0.018 0.185 | |

Observed + Imputed | 0.028 -0.117 0.173 | |

**meta trimfill** estimated the number of studies missing presumably due to
publication bias to be 3, imputed the omitted studies, and reported additional
results using both the observed and imputed studies. With the imputed
studies, the overall effect-size estimate is reduced from 0.084 to 0.028 with
a wider 95% CI.

We also specified option **funnel** to produce the funnel plot that
includes the omitted studies. The imputed studies make the funnel plot look
more symmetric and identify the areas where studies are missing.

Given the presence of heterogeneity, however, we should have addressed it
first before the trim-and-fill analysis. For instance, we could have run
**meta trimfill** separately for low-contact and high-contact groups.

Also see
Trim-and-fill analysis for addressing publication bias in [META] **meta** and [META] meta trimfill.

In Meta-regression, we established that there is a negative association between
the magnitudes of effect sizes and the amount of prior teacher–student
contact (**weeks**). We can perform cumulative meta-analysis to explore the
trend in the effect sizes as a function of **weeks**. We display the results
as a forest plot.

.meta forestplot, cumulative(weeks)

Effect-size label: Std. Mean Diff. |

Effect size: stdmdiff |

Std. Err.: se |

Study label: studylbl |

We specified **weeks** in **meta forestplot**'s option
**cumulative()** to perform cumulative meta-analysis with **weeks** as
the ordering variable. This option is also supported by **meta summarize**.

The studies are first ordered with respect to **weeks**, from smallest to
largest amount of contact. Then, separate meta-analyses are performed by
adding one study at a time. That is, the first result of the cumulative forest
plot corresponds to the effect size and its CI from the first study. The
second result corresponds to the overall effect size and its CI from the
meta-analysis of the first two studies. And so on. The last result
corresponds to the standard meta-analysis using all studies.

As the number of weeks increases, the overall standardized mean difference
and its significance (*p*-value) decreases.

Also see
Cumulative meta-analysis in [META] **meta**.

Higgins, J. P. T., S. G. Thompson, J. J. Deeks, and D. G. Altman. 2003.
Measuring inconsistency in meta-analyses. *British Medical Journal* 327:
557–560.

Palmer, T. M., and J. A. C. Sterne, ed. 2016.
*Meta-Analysis in Stata: An
Updated Collection from the Stata Journal*. 2nd ed. College
Station, TX: Stata Press.

Raudenbush, S. W. 1984. Magnitude of teacher expectancy effects on pupil IQ as
a function of the credibility of expectancy induction: A synthesis of findings
from 18 experiments. *Journal of Educational Psychology* 76: 85–97.

Rosenthal, R., and L. Jacobson. 1968. Pygmalion in the classroom. *Urban Review* 3: 16–20.

Learn more about Stata's meta-analysis features.

Read more about meta-analysis in the
*Stata Meta-Analysis Reference Manual*; see
Tour of meta-analysis commands in
[META] meta.