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st: Re: Converting a SAS datastep to Stata

From   "Joseph Coveney" <[email protected]>
To   <[email protected]>
Subject   st: Re: Converting a SAS datastep to Stata
Date   Tue, 14 Dec 2010 11:44:45 +0900

Daniel Feenberg wrote:

I have done programs to calculate income tax liability in SAS and fortran. 
Both those languages allow tax parameters that vary across years and 
filing status to be held in initialized arrays. For example, in SAS one 
could declare:

    array exmp(1993:2010) _temporary_;
    retain exmp 2350 2450 2500 2550 2650 2700 2750 2800 2900 3000 3050 3100
                3200 3300 3400 3500;

and then assigning the correct value of the personal exemption to every 
individual record is just:

    exemption = exmp(fldpyr);

where flpdyr is a variable in the data with the filing year. I am at a bit 
of a loss as to how to do this in Stata. I don't like:

    gen exemption = (flpdyr==1993)*2350 + (flpdyr==1994)*2450...(for 18
subexpressions in all)


    gen     exemption = 2350, if flpdyr==1993
    replace exemption = 2450, if flpdyr==1994
    ...(for 18 lines in all)...

because these require (and execute) so much repetitive code.

Another possibility is to create a dataset of parameters by year and 
filing status, then sort the tax return data by year and filing status, 
and finally merge the parameters onto the tax return data. But that 
requires a sort and a lot of I/O, which could be slow with potentially 
millions of returns. The additional memory required is probably not a big 

I don't actually know Mata, but I think I could define a rowvector:

     exmp =  ( 2350 2450 2500 2550 2650 2700 2750 2800 2900 3000 3050 3100
                3200 3300 3400 3500);

and then loop over all the tax returns executing:

     exemption[i] = exmp[flpdyr[i]-1992];

for each return (where i indexes returns). That seems to mean that every 
variable is going to have to carry around a [i] subscript and there will 
be a 1,000 lines of Mata code executed for each return (rather than the 
preferred 1,000 lines of code for all the returns together). That is much 
less attractive than leaving the observation number implicit, as the 
regular Stata language does. Brief study of [M-2]subscripts doesn't 
suggest any "matrixy" way of coding this.

I expect I am missing something obvious, can someone point me in the right 


The number of years is limited and they're integers, so you could probably get 
away with value labels and a one-shot work-up (see below).  This SAS-ish 
approach might be faster than any -merge- (with its implicit -sort-) when you 
have millions of observations in the tax-record dataset.

I'd bet that becoming familiar with Mata's -asarray()- (think: Paul Dorfman) 
will be more gratifying in the long run.

Joseph Coveney

P.S.  What does SAS do when you have more index values (18 years) than array
values (16 exemptions)?  Does it pad the last value out to the end of the array,
or recycle à la R?

version 11.1

clear *
set more off
set obs 18
generate int year = 1992 + _n

* Begin here
local value_label label define Exemptions
local year 1993
foreach exemption in 2350 2450 2500 2550 2650 ///
    2700 2750 2800 2900 3000 3050 3100 3200 ///
    3300 3400 3500 3550 3600 {
    local value_label `value_label' `year' "`exemption'"
	local ++year
label values year Exemptions
decode year, generate(exemption)
_strip_labels year
destring exemption, replace
list, noobs abbreviate(20) separator(0)

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