Posts Tagged ‘Bayesian’

Gelman–Rubin convergence diagnostic using multiple chains


MCMC algorithms used for simulating posterior distributions are indispensable tools in Bayesian analysis. A major consideration in MCMC simulations is that of convergence. Has the simulated Markov chain fully explored the target posterior distribution so far, or do we need longer simulations? A common approach in assessing MCMC convergence is based on running and analyzing the difference between multiple chains.

For a given Bayesian model, bayesmh is capable of producing multiple Markov chains with randomly dispersed initial values by using the initrandom option, available as of the update on 19 May 2016. In this post, I demonstrate the Gelman–Rubin diagnostic as a more formal test for convergence using multiple chains. For graphical diagnostics, see Graphical diagnostics using multiple chains in [BAYES] bayesmh for more details. To compute the Gelman–Rubin diagnostic, I use an unofficial command, grubin, which can be installed by typing the following in Stata: Read more…

Fitting distributions using bayesmh

This post was written jointly with Yulia Marchenko, Executive Director of Statistics, StataCorp.

As of update 03 Mar 2016, bayesmh provides a more convenient way of fitting distributions to the outcome variable. By design, bayesmh is a regression command, which models the mean of the outcome distribution as a function of predictors. There are cases when we do not have any predictors and want to model the outcome distribution directly. For example, we may want to fit a Poisson distribution or a binomial distribution to our outcome. This can now be done by specifying one of the four new distributions supported by bayesmh in the likelihood() option: dexponential(), dbernoulli(), dbinomial(), or dpoisson(). Previously, the suboption noglmtransform of bayesmh‘s option likelihood() was used to fit the exponential, binomial, and Poisson distributions to the outcome variable. This suboption continues to work but is now undocumented.

For examples, see Beta-binomial model, Bayesian analysis of change-point problem, and Item response theory under Remarks and examples in [BAYES] bayesmh.

We have also updated our earlier “Bayesian binary item response theory models using bayesmh” blog entry to use the new dbernoulli() specification when fitting 3PL, 4PL, and 5PL IRT models.

Bayesian binary item response theory models using bayesmh

This post was written jointly with Yulia Marchenko, Executive Director of Statistics, StataCorp.

Table of Contents

1PL model
2PL model
3PL model
4PL model
5PL model


Item response theory (IRT) is used for modeling the relationship between the latent abilities of a group of subjects and the examination items used for measuring their abilities. Stata 14 introduced a suite of commands for fitting IRT models using maximum likelihood; see, for example, the blog post Spotlight on irt by Rafal Raciborski and the [IRT] Item Response Theory manual for more details. In this post, we demonstrate how to fit Bayesian binary IRT models by using the redefine() option introduced for the bayesmh command in Stata 14.1. We also use the likelihood option dbernoulli() available as of the update on 03 Mar 2016 for fitting Bernoulli distribution. If you are not familiar with the concepts and jargon of Bayesian statistics, you may want to watch the introductory videos on the Stata Youtube channel before proceeding.

Introduction to Bayesian analysis, part 1 : The basic concepts
Introduction to Bayesian analysis, part 2: MCMC and the Metropolis-Hastings algorithm

We use the abridged version of the mathematics and science data from DeBoeck and Wilson (2004), masc1. The dataset includes 800 student responses to 9 test questions intended to measure mathematical ability.

The irt suite fits IRT models using data in the wide form – one observation per subject with items recorded in separate variables. To fit IRT models using bayesmh, we need data in the long form, where items are recorded as multiple observations per subject. We thus reshape the dataset in a long form: we have a single binary response variable, y, and two index variables, item and id, which identify the items and subjects, respectively. This allows us to Read more…

Bayesian modeling: Beyond Stata’s built-in models

This post was written jointly with Nikolay Balov, Senior Statistician and Software Developer, StataCorp.

A question on Statalist motivated us to write this blog entry.

A user asked if the churdle command ( for fitting hurdle models, new in Stata 14, can be combined with the bayesmh command ( for fitting Bayesian models, also new in Stata 14:

Our initial reaction to this question was ‘No’ or, more precisely, ‘Not easily’—hurdle models are not among the likelihood models supported by bayesmh. One can write a program to compute the log likelihood of the double hurdle model and use this program with bayesmh (in the spirit of, but this may seem like a daunting task if you are not familiar with Stata programming.

And then we realized, why not simply call churdle from the evaluator to compute the log likelihood? All we need is for churdle to evaluate the log likelihood at specific values of model parameters without performing iterations. This can be achieved by specifying churdle‘s options from() and iterate(0). Read more…

Stata 14 announced, ships

We’ve just announced the release of Stata 14. Stata 14 ships and downloads starting now.

I just posted on Statalist about it. Here’s a copy of what I wrote.

Stata 14 is now available. You heard it here first.

There’s a long tradition that Statalisters hear about Stata’s new releases first. The new forum is celebrating its first birthday, but it is a continuation of the old Statalist, so the tradition continues, but updated for the modern world, where everything happens more quickly. You are hearing about Stata 14 roughly a microsecond before the rest of the world. Traditions are important.

Here’s yet another example of everything happening faster in the modern world. Rather than the announcement preceding shipping by a few weeks as in previous releases, Stata 14 ships and downloads starting now. Or rather, a microsecond from now.

Some things from the past are worth preserving, however, and one is that I get to write about the new release in my own idiosyncratic way. So let me get the marketing stuff out of the way and then I can tell you about a few things that especially interest me and might interest you.


Here’s a partial list of what’s new, a.k.a. the highlights:

  • Unicode
  • More than 2 billion observations (Stata/MP)
  • Bayesian analysis
  • IRT (Item Response Theory)
  • Panel-data survival models
  • Treatment effects
    • Treatment effects for survival models
    • Endogenous treatments
    • Probability weights
    • Balance analysis
  • Multilevel mixed-effects survival models
  • Small-sample inference for multilevel models
  • SEM (structural equation modeling)
    • Survival models
    • Satorra-Bentler scaled chi-squared test
    • Survey data
    • Multilevel weights
  • Power and sample size
    • Survival models
    • Contingency (epidemiological) tables
  • Markov-switching regression models
  • Tests for structural breaks in time-series
  • Fractional outcome regression models
  • Hurdle models
  • Censored Poisson regression
  • Survey support & multilevel weights for multilevel models
  • New random-number generators
  • Estimated marginal means and marginal effects
    • Tables for multiple outcomes and levels
    • Integration over unobserved and latent variables
  • ICD-10
  • Stata in Spanish and in Japanese

The above list is not complete; it lists about 30% of what’s new.

For all the details about Stata 14, including purchase and update information, and links to distributors outside of the US, visit

If you are outside of the US, you can order from your authorized Stata distributor. They will supply codes so that you can access and download from


I want to write about three of the new features ‒ Unicode, more than 2-billion observations, and Bayesian analysis.

Unicode is the modern way that computers encode characters such as the letters in what you are now reading. Unicode encodes all the world’s characters, meaning I can write Hello, Здравствуйте, こんにちは, and lots more besides. Well, the forum software is modern and I always could write those words here. Now I can write them in Stata, too.

For those who care, Stata uses Unicode’s UTF-8 encoding.

Anyway, you can use Unicode characters in your data, of course; in your variable labels, of course; and in your value labels, of course. What you might not expect is that you can use Unicode in your variable names, macro names, and everywhere else Stata wants a name or identifier.

Here’s the auto data in Japanese:

Your use of Unicode may not be as extreme as the above. It might be enough just to make tables and graphs labeled in languages other than English. If so, just set the variable labels and value labels. It doesn’t matter whether the variables are named übersetzung and kofferraum or gear_ratio and trunkspace or 変速比 and トランク.

I want to remind English speakers that Unicode includes mathematical symbols. You can use them in titles, axis labels, and the like.

Few good things come without cost. If you have been using Extended ASCII to circumvent Stata’s plain ASCII limitations, those files need to be translated to Unicode if the strings in them are to display correctly in Stata 14. This includes .dta files, do-files, ado-files, help files, and the like. It’s easier to do than you might expect. A new unicode analyze command will tell you whether you have files that need fixing and, if so, the new unicode translate command will fix them for you. It’s almost as easy as typing

. unicode translate *

This command translates your files and that has got to concern you. What if it mistranslates them? What if the power fails? Relax. unicode translate makes backups of the originals, and it keeps the backups until you delete them, which you have to do by typing

. unicode erasebackups, badidea

Yes, the option really is named badidea and it is not optional. Another unicode command can restore the backups.

The difficult part of translating your existing files is not performing the translation, it’s determining which Extended ASCII encoding your files used so that the translation can be performed. We have advice on that in the help files but, even so, some of you will only be able to narrow down the encoding to a few choices. The good news is that it is easy to try each one. You just type

. unicode retranslate *

It won’t take long to figure out which encoding works best.

Stata/MP now allows you to process datasets containing more than 2.1-billion observations. This sounds exciting, but I suspect it will interest only a few of you. How many of us have datasets with more than 2.1-billion observations? And even if you do, you will need a computer with lots of memory. This feature is useful if you have access to a 512-gigabyte, 1-terabyte, or 1.5-terabyte computer. With smaller computers, you are unlikely to have room for 2.1 billion observations. It’s exciting that such computers are available.

We increased the limit on only Stata/MP because, to exploit the higher limit, you need multiple processors. It’s easy to misjudge how much larger a 2-billion observation dataset is than a 2-million observation one. On my everyday 16 gigabyte computer ‒ which is nothing special ‒ I just fit a linear regression with six RHS variables on 2-million observations. It ran in 1.2 seconds. I used Stata/SE, and the 1.2 seconds felt fast. So, if my computer had more memory, how long would it take to fit a model on 2-billion observations? 1,200 seconds, which is to say, 20 minutes! You need Stata/MP. Stata/MP4 will reduce that to 5 minutes. Stata/MP32 will reduce that to 37.5 seconds.

By the way, if you intend to use more than 2-billion observations, be sure to click on help obs_advice that appears in the start-up notes after Stata launches. You will get better performance if you set min_memory and segmentsize to larger values. We tell you what values to set.

There’s quite a good discussion about dealing with more than 2-billion observations at

After that, it’s statistics, statistics, statistics.

Which new statistics will interest you obviously depends on your field. We’ve gone deeper into a number of fields. Treatment effects for survival models is just one example. Multilevel survival models is another. Markov-switching models is yet another. Well, you can read the list above.

Two of the new statistical features are worth mentioning, however, because they simply weren’t there previously. They are Bayesian analysis and IRT models, which are admittedly two very different things.

IRT is a highlight of the release and for some of it you will be the highlight, so I mention it, and I’ll just tell you to see for more information.

Bayesian analysis is the other highlight as far as I’m concerned, and it will interest a lot of you because it cuts across fields. Many of you are already knowledgeable about this and I can just hear you asking, “Does Stata include …?” So here’s the high-speed summary:

Stata fits continuous-, binary-, ordinal-, and count-outcome models. And linear and nonlinear models. And generalized nonlinear models. Univariate, multivariate, and multiple-equation. It provides 10 likelihood models and 18 prior distributions. It also allows for user-defined likelihoods combined with built-in priors, built-in likelihoods combined with user-defined priors, and a roll-your-own programming approach to calculate the posterior density directly. MCMC methods are provided, including Adaptive Metropolis-Hastings (MH), Adaptive MH with Gibbs updates, and full Gibbs sampling for certain likelihoods and priors.

It’s also easy to use and that’s saying something.

There’s a great example of the new Bayes features in The Stata News. I mention this because including the example there is nearly a proof of ease of use. The example looks at the number of disasters in the British coal mining industry. There was a fairly abrupt decrease in the rate sometime between 1887 and 1895, which you see if you eyeballed a graph. In the example, we model the number of disasters before the change point as one Poisson process; the number after, as another Poisson process; and then we fit a model of the two Poisson parameters and the date of change. For the change point it uses a uniform prior on [1851, 1962] ‒ the range of the data ‒ and obtains a posterior mean estimate of 1890.4 and a 95% credible interval of [1886, 1896], which agrees with our visual assessment.

I hope something I’ve written above interests you. Visit for more information.

‒ Bill