Using one-sample confidence intervals on the mean to decide if there’s good evidence that two means are different. Statistical experts know to use the two-sample t-test for such problems, but best to build up intuition first and then add mathematical refinements later. And, you’ll be able to see for yourself whether the refinements have any practical impact.
We’re continuing the story of two friends interested in how to measure poverty. Recall that in the Comparing two groups activity, you met with them at a coffee shop to show them the
NHANES data and how to display it in the Confidence and T Little App. You had arranged the display to have
income_poverty as the response variable and
home_type as the explanatory variable, with the Source Package as Little App and the Data set as NHANES2. The sample size was n = 100, since that’s the number of families your friends were thinking of interviewing. You had looked at the difference in mean poverty level for the “Own” group and the “Rent” group, and how it varied from one sample to another.
Your friends are a little concerned. One of the friends asks, “So every time you press New Sample, it’s as if we did another set of 100 interviews on some new, randomly chosen families?”
“Right,” you answer.
She asked, “And comparing the result across many such samples would let us know if our original sample really showed a difference in mean poverty?”
“Exactly,” you say.
“But we can’t possibly do several sets of interviews with different samples of 100 families each. We’re planning to interview 100 families TOTAL. That’s as much as we will have time for.” She adds, “What do we do with our real data, when we just have our single sample of 100 families?”
“No problem,” you respond. Let me show you what to do.
Open up the Confidence and T Little App. (See footnote1). Set the Source Package to
Little Apps, and the Data set to ’NHANES2
. Set the response variable toincome_poverty
and the explanatory variable tohome_type`. Set the sample size to n = 100. Go into the App Control menu (the parallel lines icon). Check the box in the controls to show the mean values of the two groups.
Check the box in the controls to show the confidence interval on the mean. A simple test for whether there is a meaningful difference between the means of the two groups is to check whether the confidence intervals overlap or not.
Check the “Shuffle” box next to the Apps control icon. This simulates a situation where there is no systematic relationship between the response and explanatory variables.
Explore how sample size effects the length of the confidence intervals and whether they overlap. (Make sure the “Shuffle” box is unchecked, so you are looking at the actual data rather than a simulation.)
Set the sample size to n = 20. Measure the length of the confidence intervals using the app’s measuring stick (click on the top of the confidence interval and then drag to the bottom of the interval). Do this for several new samples to get an idea of the typical length of the confidence intervals for a sample size n = 20. Write down your result.
Set the sample size to n = 200, ten times larger than the previous step. Again, measure the typical length of the confidence intervals over several new samples. Write down your result.
Set the sample size to n = 2000, ten times larger than the previous step and one-hundred times larger than when n = 20. Again, measure the typical length of the confidence intervals over several new samples.
Compare the lengths of the confidence intervals that you measures for n = 20, 200, 2000. Describe the pattern: