# Standard Error

The standard error of a statistic is actually the standard deviation of the sampling distribution of that statistic. Standard errors reflects how much sampling fluctuation a statistic will show. The inferential statistics (deductive statistics) involved in the construction of confidence intervals and significance testing are based on standard errors. Increasing the sample size, the Standard Error decreases.

In practical applications, the true value of the standard deviation of the error is unknown. As a result, the term standard error is often used to refer to an estimate of this unknown quantity.

The size of standard error is affected by two values.

1. The Standard Deviation of the population which affects the standard error. Larger the population’s standard deviation (σ), larger is standard error i.e. $\frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}}$. If the population is homogeneous (which results in small population standard deviation), the standard error will also be small.
2. The standard error is affected by the number of observations in a sample. A large sample will result in a small standard error of estimate (indicates less variability in the sample means)

## Application of Standard Errors

Standard errors are used in different statistical tests such as

• used to measure the distribution of the sample means
• used to build confidence intervals for means, proportions, different between means etc for cases when population standard deviation is known or unknown.
• used to determine the sample size
• used in control charts for control limits for means
• used in comparisons test such as z-test, t-test, Analysis of Variance, Correlation and Regression Analysis (standard error of regression) etc

## (1) Standard Error of Means

The standard error for the mean or standard deviation of the sampling distribution of the mean, measures the deviation/ variation in the sampling distribution of the sample mean, denoted by $\sigma_{\bar{x}}$ and calculated as the function of the standard deviation of the population and respective size of the sample i.e

$\sigma_{\bar{x}}=\frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}}$                      (used when population is finite)

If the population size is infinite then ${\sigma_{\bar{x}}=\frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}} \times \sqrt{\frac{N-n}{N}}}$ because $\sqrt{\frac{N-n}{N}}$ tends towards 1 as N tends to infinity.

When standard deviation (σ) of the population is unknown, we estimate it from the sample standard deviation. In this case standard error formula is $\sigma_{\bar{x}}=\frac{S}{\sqrt{n}}$

## (2) Standard Error for Proportion

Standard error for proportion can also be calculated in same manner as we calculated standard error of mean, denoted by $\sigma_p$ and calculated as $\sigma_p=\frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}}\sqrt{\frac{N-n}{N}}$.

In case of finite population $\sigma_p=\frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}}$
in case of infinite population $\sigma=\sqrt{p(1-p)}=\sqrt{pq}$, where p is the probability that an element possesses the studied trait and q=1-p is the probability that it does not.

## (3) Standard Error for Difference between Means

Standard error for difference between two independent quantities is the square root of the of the sum of the squared standard errors of the both quantities i.e $\sigma_{\bar{x}_1+\bar{x}_2}=\sqrt{\frac{\sigma_1^2}{n_1}+\frac{\sigma_2^2}{n_2}}$, where $\sigma_1^2$ and $\sigma_2^2$ are the respective variances of the two independent population to be compared and $n_1+n_2$ are the respective sizes of the two samples drawn from their respective populations.

Unknown Population Variances
If the variances of the two populations are unknown, we estimate them from the two samples i.e. $\sigma_{\bar{x}_1+\bar{x}_2}=\sqrt{\frac{S_1^2}{n_1}+\frac{S_2^2}{n_2}}$, where $S_1^2$ and $S_2^2$ are the respective variances of the two samples drawn from their respective population.

Equal Variances are assumed
In case when it is assumed that the variance of the two populations are equal, we can estimate the value of these variances with a pooled variance $S_p^2$ calculated as a function of $S_1^2$ and $S_2^2$ i.e

$S_p^2=\frac{(n_1-1)S_1^2+(n_2-1)S_2^2}{n_1+n_2-2}$
$\sigma_{\bar{x}_1}+{\bar{x}_2}=S_p \sqrt{\frac{1}{n_1}+\frac{1}{n_2}}$

## (4) Standard Error for Difference between Proportions

The standard error of the difference between two proportions is calculated in the same way as the standard error of the difference between means is calculated i.e.
\begin{eqnarray*}
\sigma_{p_1-p_2}&=&\sqrt{\sigma_{p_1}^2+\sigma_{p_2}^2}\\
&=& \sqrt{\frac{p_1(1-p_1)}{n_1}+\frac{p_2(1-p_2)}{n_2}}
\end{eqnarray*}
where $p_1$ and $p_2$ are the proportion for infinite population calculated for the two samples of sizes $n_1$ and $n_2$.

Updated: Sep 11, 2015 — 2:44 pm

#### The Author

Student and Instructor of Statistics and business mathematics. Currently Ph.D. Scholar (Statistics), Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan. Like Applied Statistics and Mathematics and Statistical Computing. Statistical and Mathematical software used are: SAS, STATA, GRETL, EVIEWS, R, SPSS, VBA in MS-Excel. Like to use type-setting LaTeX for composing Articles, thesis etc.