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st: RE: why don't confidence intervals from -proportion- use the same formula as -ci-?

From   "Lachenbruch, Peter" <>
To   "" <>
Subject   st: RE: why don't confidence intervals from -proportion- use the same formula as -ci-?
Date   Sat, 12 Jan 2013 19:17:30 +0000

Unless  we go to exact ci, the (x+2)/(n+4) only works for 95% ci

Peter A. Lachenbruch,
Professor (retired)
From: [] on behalf of Ronan Conroy []
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2013 3:44 AM
To: statalist edu
Subject: st: why don't confidence intervals from -proportion- use the same formula as -ci-?

I have a real problem with the confidence intervals produced by the -proportion- command.

. input outcome freq

       outcome       freq
  1. 0 21
  2. 1 2
  3. end

Here is the confidence interval which is most probably closest the the nominal coverage according to
- Brown L, Cai T, DasGupta A. Interval estimation for a binomial proportion. Statistical Science. 2001;16(2):101–17.

. ci outcome [fw=freq], bin wil

                                                         ------ Wilson ------
    Variable |        Obs        Mean    Std. Err.       [95% Conf. Interval]
     outcome |         23    .0869565    .0587534          .02418    .2679598

Now here is what -proportion- does.

. proportion outcome [fw=freq]

Proportion estimation               Number of obs    =      23

             | Proportion   Std. Err.     [95% Conf. Interval]
outcome      |
           0 |   .9130435   .0600739      .7884579    1.037629
           1 |   .0869565   .0600739      -.037629    .2115421

end of do-file

According to the manual:

"Methods and formulas
proportion is implemented as an ado-file.
Proportions are means of indicator variables; see [R] mean."

Is anyone prepared to defend this approach as the only formula implemented by -proportion-? Or indeed to tell me that they have managed to publish a paper that included confidence intervals such as the one above?

I myself find this bizarre. Consider the example above. The confidence interval includes a value that is impossible - zero. With two observed successes, the success rate cannot be zero. And it includes probabilities that have no definition: negative probabilities. While I am prepared to accept that physicists have now produced temperatures that are lower than absolute zero, I cannot bring myself to persuade anyone that a confidence interval for a probability can extend beyond the interval 0-1.

I believe it would be good if Stata's -proportion- command allowed the choice of some more believable methods.

Ronán Conroy
Associate Professor
Division of Population Health Sciences
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Beaux Lane House
Dublin 2

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