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How can I estimate proportional changes using margins for categorical variables?

Title   Calculating proportional change of categorical covariates
Author Chris Cheng, Staff Econometrician

Suppose that, after fitting a linear regression such as

$$\mathsf E[y|x] = a + b*x$$

we would like to obtain the proportional change in y for a change from 0 to 1 in binary variable x using the following formula:

$$\frac {\mathsf E(\hat{y}|x = 1) - \mathsf E(\hat{y}|x = 0)}{\mathsf E(\hat{y}|x = 0)}$$

Here is an example of how we can compute this proportional change manually:

. sysuse auto, clear
(1978 automobile data)

. quietly    regress  price  mpg  turn  i.foreign
. generate   price0  =  _b[_cons]  +  _b[mpg]*mpg  +  _b[turn]*turn
. generate   price1  =  _b[_cons]  +  _b[mpg]*mpg  +  _b[turn]*turn  +  _b[1.foreign]
. generate   propch  =  (price1  -  price0)/price0
. summarize  propch

Variable Obs Mean Std. dev. Min Max
propch 74 .6437617 1.405657 .2495446 12.36855

If we would like to compute its associated standard error, we can use the margins command with the expression() option:

. margins, expression(_b[1.foreign]/(_b[_cons] + _b[mpg]*mpg + _b[turn]*turn))
warning: option expression() does not contain option predict() or xb().

Predictive margins                                          Number of obs = 74
Model VCE: OLS

Expression: _b[1.foreign]/(_b[_cons] + _b[mpg]*mpg + _b[turn]*turn)

Delta-method
Margin std. err. z P>|z| [95% conf. interval]
_cons .6437617 1.282864 0.50 0.616 -1.870606 3.15813

If x is a categorical variable with more than two groups, we can similarly type

 .webuse lbw, clear
(Hosmer & Lemeshow data)

. quietly   regress bwt age lwt i.race
. generate  bwt1   = _b[_cons] + _b[lwt]*lwt
. generate  bwt2   = _b[_cons] + _b[lwt]*lwt + _b[2.race]
. generate  bwt3   = _b[_cons] + _b[lwt]*lwt + _b[3.race]
. generate  prop21 = (bwt2 - bwt1)/bwt1
. generate  prop31 = (bwt3 - bwt1)/bwt1
. summarize prop21 prop31

Variable Obs Mean Std. dev. Min Max
prop21 189 -.1465782 .0063929 -.1581653 -.123847
prop31 189 -.078879 .0034403 -.0851145 -.0666465
. margins, expression((_b[2.race]*2.race + _b[3.race]*3.race)/ (_b[_cons] + _b[l wt]*lwt)) dydx(race) warning: option expression() does not contain option predict() or xb(). Average marginal effects Number of obs = 189 Model VCE: OLS Expression: (_b[2.race]*2.race + _b[3.race]*3.race)/ (_b[_cons] + _b[lwt]*lwt) dy/dx wrt: 2.race 3.race
Delta-method
dy/dx std. err. z P>|z| [95% conf. interval]
race
Black -.1465782 .0502353 -2.92 0.004 -.2450377 -.0481188
Other -.078879 .0361615 -2.18 0.029 -.1497543 -.0080038
Note: dy/dx for factor levels is the discrete change from the base level.

In the margins command, we can specify the expression() and dydx() options in a somewhat tricky way in order to get the same proportional change formulas that we obtained in the previous manual computations. We include the difference for each group compared with the base times an indicator for that group in the numerator of our expression. After taking the derivative using dydx() with respect to each level, we end up with proportional changes for each level, race = 2 and race = 3, compared with the base, race = 1. For more details, please see the blog post Using the margins command with different functional forms: Proportional versus natural logarithm changes. This post also contains examples for nonlinear models.

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