Two sample t test - equal variances not assumed: overview

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Two sample $t$ test - equal variances not assumed
Independent variable
One categorical with 2 independent groups
Dependent variable
One quantitative of interval or ratio level
Null hypothesis
$\mu_1 = \mu_2$
$\mu_1$ is the unknown mean in population 1, $\mu_2$ is the unknown mean in population 2
Alternative hypothesis
Two sided: $\mu_1 \neq \mu_2$
Right sided: $\mu_1 > \mu_2$
Left sided: $\mu_1 < \mu_2$
Assumptions
  • Within each population, the scores on the dependent variable are normally distributed
  • Group 1 sample is a simple random sample (SRS) from population 1, group 2 sample is an independent SRS from population 2. That is, within and between groups, observations are independent of one another
Test statistic
$t = \dfrac{(\bar{y}_1 - \bar{y}_2) - 0}{\sqrt{\dfrac{s^2_1}{n_1} + \dfrac{s^2_2}{n_2}}} = \dfrac{\bar{y}_1 - \bar{y}_2}{\sqrt{\dfrac{s^2_1}{n_1} + \dfrac{s^2_2}{n_2}}}$
$\bar{y}_1$ is the sample mean in group 1, $\bar{y}_2$ is the sample mean in group 2, $s^2_1$ is the sample variance in group 1, $s^2_2$ is the sample variance in group 2, $n_1$ is the sample size of group 1, $n_2$ is the sample size of group 2. The 0 represents the difference in population means according to H0.

The denominator $\sqrt{\frac{s^2_1}{n_1} + \frac{s^2_2}{n_2}}$ is the standard error of the sampling distribution of $\bar{y}_1 - \bar{y}_2$. The $t$ value indicates how many standard errors $\bar{y}_1 - \bar{y}_2$ is removed from 0.

Note: we could just as well compute $\bar{y}_2 - \bar{y}_1$ in the numerator, but then the left sided alternative becomes $\mu_2 < \mu_1$, and the right sided alternative becomes $\mu_2 > \mu_1$
Sampling distribution of $t$ if H0 were true
Approximately a $t$ distribution with $k$ degrees of freedom, with $k$ equal to
$k = \dfrac{\Bigg(\dfrac{s^2_1}{n_1} + \dfrac{s^2_2}{n_2}\Bigg)^2}{\dfrac{1}{n_1 - 1} \Bigg(\dfrac{s^2_1}{n_1}\Bigg)^2 + \dfrac{1}{n_2 - 1} \Bigg(\dfrac{s^2_2}{n_2}\Bigg)^2}$
or
$k$ = the smaller of $n_1$ - 1 and $n_2$ - 1

First definition of $k$ is used by computer programs, second definition is often used for hand calculations
Significant?
Two sided: Right sided: Left sided:
Approximate $C\%$ confidence interval for $\mu_1 - \mu_2$
$(\bar{y}_1 - \bar{y}_2) \pm t^* \times \sqrt{\dfrac{s^2_1}{n_1} + \dfrac{s^2_2}{n_2}}$
where the critical value $t^*$ is the value under the $t_{k}$ distribution with the area $C / 100$ between $-t^*$ and $t^*$ (e.g. $t^*$ = 2.086 for a 95% confidence interval when df = 20)

The confidence interval for $\mu_1 - \mu_2$ can also be used as significance test.
Visual representation
Two sample t test - equal variances not assumed
Example context
Is the average mental health score different between men and women?
Pratice questions