z test for the difference between two proportions - overview

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$z$ test for the difference between two proportions
$z$ test for a single proportion
McNemar's test
You cannot compare more than 3 methods
Independent/grouping variableIndependent variableIndependent variable
One categorical with 2 independent groupsNone2 paired groups
Dependent variableDependent variableDependent variable
One categorical with 2 independent groupsOne categorical with 2 independent groupsOne categorical with 2 independent groups
Null hypothesisNull hypothesisNull hypothesis
H0: $\pi_1 = \pi_2$

Here $\pi_1$ is the population proportion of 'successes' for group 1, and $\pi_2$ is the population proportion of 'successes' for group 2.
H0: $\pi = \pi_0$

Here $\pi$ is the population proportion of 'successes', and $\pi_0$ is the population proportion of successes according to the null hypothesis.

Let's say that the scores on the dependent variable are scored 0 and 1. Then for each pair of scores, the data allow four options:

  1. First score of pair is 0, second score of pair is 0
  2. First score of pair is 0, second score of pair is 1 (switched)
  3. First score of pair is 1, second score of pair is 0 (switched)
  4. First score of pair is 1, second score of pair is 1
The null hypothesis H0 is that for each pair of scores, P(first score of pair is 0 while second score of pair is 1) = P(first score of pair is 1 while second score of pair is 0). That is, the probability that a pair of scores switches from 0 to 1 is the same as the probability that a pair of scores switches from 1 to 0.

Other formulations of the null hypothesis are:

  • H0: $\pi_1 = \pi_2$, where $\pi_1$ is the population proportion of ones for the first paired group and $\pi_2$ is the population proportion of ones for the second paired group
  • H0: for each pair of scores, P(first score of pair is 1) = P(second score of pair is 1)

Alternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesis
H1 two sided: $\pi_1 \neq \pi_2$
H1 right sided: $\pi_1 > \pi_2$
H1 left sided: $\pi_1 < \pi_2$
H1 two sided: $\pi \neq \pi_0$
H1 right sided: $\pi > \pi_0$
H1 left sided: $\pi < \pi_0$

The alternative hypothesis H1 is that for each pair of scores, P(first score of pair is 0 while second score of pair is 1) $\neq$ P(first score of pair is 1 while second score of pair is 0). That is, the probability that a pair of scores switches from 0 to 1 is not the same as the probability that a pair of scores switches from 1 to 0.

Other formulations of the alternative hypothesis are:

  • H1: $\pi_1 \neq \pi_2$
  • H1: for each pair of scores, P(first score of pair is 1) $\neq$ P(second score of pair is 1)

AssumptionsAssumptionsAssumptions
  • Sample size is large enough for $z$ to be approximately normally distributed. Rule of thumb:
    • Significance test: number of successes and number of failures are each 5 or more in both sample groups
    • Regular (large sample) 90%, 95%, or 99% confidence interval: number of successes and number of failures are each 10 or more in both sample groups
    • Plus four 90%, 95%, or 99% confidence interval: sample sizes of both groups are 5 or more
  • 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
  • Sample size is large enough for $z$ to be approximately normally distributed. Rule of thumb:
    • Significance test: $N \times \pi_0$ and $N \times (1 - \pi_0)$ are each larger than 10
    • Regular (large sample) 90%, 95%, or 99% confidence interval: number of successes and number of failures in sample are each 15 or more
    • Plus four 90%, 95%, or 99% confidence interval: total sample size is 10 or more
  • Sample is a simple random sample from the population. That is, observations are independent of one another
If the sample size is too small for $z$ to be approximately normally distributed, the binomial test for a single proportion should be used.
  • Sample of pairs is a simple random sample from the population of pairs. That is, pairs are independent of one another
Test statisticTest statisticTest statistic
$z = \dfrac{p_1 - p_2}{\sqrt{p(1 - p)\Bigg(\dfrac{1}{n_1} + \dfrac{1}{n_2}\Bigg)}}$
Here $p_1$ is the sample proportion of successes in group 1: $\dfrac{X_1}{n_1}$, $p_2$ is the sample proportion of successes in group 2: $\dfrac{X_2}{n_2}$, $p$ is the total proportion of successes in the sample: $\dfrac{X_1 + X_2}{n_1 + n_2}$, $n_1$ is the sample size of group 1, and $n_2$ is the sample size of group 2.
Note: we could just as well compute $p_2 - p_1$ in the numerator, but then the left sided alternative becomes $\pi_2 < \pi_1$, and the right sided alternative becomes $\pi_2 > \pi_1.$
$z = \dfrac{p - \pi_0}{\sqrt{\dfrac{\pi_0(1 - \pi_0)}{N}}}$
Here $p$ is the sample proportion of successes: $\dfrac{X}{N}$, $N$ is the sample size, and $\pi_0$ is the population proportion of successes according to the null hypothesis.
$X^2 = \dfrac{(b - c)^2}{b + c}$
Here $b$ is the number of pairs in the sample for which the first score is 0 while the second score is 1, and $c$ is the number of pairs in the sample for which the first score is 1 while the second score is 0.
Sampling distribution of $z$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $z$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $X^2$ if H0 were true
Approximately the standard normal distributionApproximately the standard normal distribution

If $b + c$ is large enough (say, > 20), approximately the chi-squared distribution with 1 degree of freedom.

If $b + c$ is small, the Binomial($n$, $P$) distribution should be used, with $n = b + c$ and $P = 0.5$. In that case the test statistic becomes equal to $b$.

Significant?Significant?Significant?
Two sided: Right sided: Left sided: Two sided: Right sided: Left sided: For test statistic $X^2$:
  • Check if $X^2$ observed in sample is equal to or larger than critical value $X^{2*}$ or
  • Find $p$ value corresponding to observed $X^2$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
If $b + c$ is small, the table for the binomial distribution should be used, with as test statistic $b$:
  • Check if $b$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find two sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $b$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
Approximate $C\%$ confidence interval for $\pi_1 - \pi_2$Approximate $C\%$ confidence interval for $\pi$n.a.
Regular (large sample):
  • $(p_1 - p_2) \pm z^* \times \sqrt{\dfrac{p_1(1 - p_1)}{n_1} + \dfrac{p_2(1 - p_2)}{n_2}}$
    where the critical value $z^*$ is the value under the normal curve with the area $C / 100$ between $-z^*$ and $z^*$ (e.g. $z^*$ = 1.96 for a 95% confidence interval)
With plus four method:
  • $(p_{1.plus} - p_{2.plus}) \pm z^* \times \sqrt{\dfrac{p_{1.plus}(1 - p_{1.plus})}{n_1 + 2} + \dfrac{p_{2.plus}(1 - p_{2.plus})}{n_2 + 2}}$
    where $p_{1.plus} = \dfrac{X_1 + 1}{n_1 + 2}$, $p_{2.plus} = \dfrac{X_2 + 1}{n_2 + 2}$, and the critical value $z^*$ is the value under the normal curve with the area $C / 100$ between $-z^*$ and $z^*$ (e.g. $z^*$ = 1.96 for a 95% confidence interval)
Regular (large sample):
  • $p \pm z^* \times \sqrt{\dfrac{p(1 - p)}{N}}$
    where the critical value $z^*$ is the value under the normal curve with the area $C / 100$ between $-z^*$ and $z^*$ (e.g. $z^*$ = 1.96 for a 95% confidence interval)
With plus four method:
  • $p_{plus} \pm z^* \times \sqrt{\dfrac{p_{plus}(1 - p_{plus})}{N + 4}}$
    where $p_{plus} = \dfrac{X + 2}{N + 4}$ and the critical value $z^*$ is the value under the normal curve with the area $C / 100$ between $-z^*$ and $z^*$ (e.g. $z^*$ = 1.96 for a 95% confidence interval)
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Equivalent toEquivalent toEquivalent to
When testing two sided: chi-squared test for the relationship between two categorical variables, where both categorical variables have 2 levels.
  • When testing two sided: goodness of fit test, with a categorical variable with 2 levels.
  • When $N$ is large, the $p$ value from the $z$ test for a single proportion approaches the $p$ value from the binomial test for a single proportion. The $z$ test for a single proportion is just a large sample approximation of the binomial test for a single proportion.
Example contextExample contextExample context
Is the proportion of smokers different between men and women? Use the normal approximation for the sampling distribution of the test statistic.Is the proportion of smokers amongst office workers different from $\pi_0 = 0.2$? Use the normal approximation for the sampling distribution of the test statistic.Does a tv documentary about spiders change whether people are afraid (yes/no) of spiders?
SPSSSPSSSPSS
SPSS does not have a specific option for the $z$ test for the difference between two proportions. However, you can do the chi-squared test instead. The $p$ value resulting from this chi-squared test is equivalent to the two sided $p$ value that would have resulted from the $z$ test. Go to:

Analyze > Descriptive Statistics > Crosstabs...
  • Put your independent (grouping) variable in the box below Row(s), and your dependent variable in the box below Column(s)
  • Click the Statistics... button, and click on the square in front of Chi-square
  • Continue and click OK
Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > Legacy Dialogs > Binomial...
  • Put your dichotomous variable in the box below Test Variable List
  • Fill in the value for $\pi_0$ in the box next to Test Proportion
If computation time allows, SPSS will give you the exact $p$ value based on the binomial distribution, rather than the approximate $p$ value based on the normal distribution
Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > Legacy Dialogs > 2 Related Samples...
  • Put the two paired variables in the boxes below Variable 1 and Variable 2
  • Under Test Type, select the McNemar test
JamoviJamoviJamovi
Jamovi does not have a specific option for the $z$ test for the difference between two proportions. However, you can do the chi-squared test instead. The $p$ value resulting from this chi-squared test is equivalent to the two sided $p$ value that would have resulted from the $z$ test. Go to:

Frequencies > Independent Samples - $\chi^2$ test of association
  • Put your independent (grouping) variable in the box below Rows, and your dependent variable in the box below Columns
Frequencies > 2 Outcomes - Binomial test
  • Put your dichotomous variable in the white box at the right
  • Fill in the value for $\pi_0$ in the box next to Test value
  • Under Hypothesis, select your alternative hypothesis
Jamovi will give you the exact $p$ value based on the binomial distribution, rather than the approximate $p$ value based on the normal distribution
Frequencies > Paired Samples - McNemar test
  • Put one of the two paired variables in the box below Rows and the other paired variable in the box below Columns
Practice questionsPractice questionsPractice questions