**Version info: **Code for this page was tested in Stata 12.

Poisson regression is used to model count variables.

**Please note:** The purpose of this page is to show how to use various data
analysis commands. It does not cover all aspects of the research process which
researchers are expected to do. In particular, it does not cover data
cleaning and checking, verification of assumptions, model diagnostics or
potential follow-up analyses.

## Examples of Poisson regression

Example 1. The number of persons killed by mule or horse kicks in the
Prussian army per year.
Ladislaus Bortkiewicz collected data from 20 volumes of
*Preussischen Statistik*. These data were collected on 10 corps of
the Prussian army in the late 1800s over the course of 20 years.

Example 2. The number of people in line in front of you at the grocery store. Predictors may include the number of items currently offered at a special discounted price and whether a special event (e.g., a holiday, a big sporting event) is three or fewer days away.

Example 3. The number of awards earned by students at one high school. Predictors of the number of awards earned include the type of program in which the student was enrolled (e.g., vocational, general or academic) and the score on their final exam in math.

## Description of the data

For the purpose of illustration, we have simulated a data set for Example 3 above.
In this example, **num_awards** is the outcome variable and indicates the
number of awards earned by students at a high school in a year, **math** is a continuous
predictor variable and represents students’ scores on their math final exam, and **prog** is a categorical predictor variable with
three levels indicating the type of program in which the students were
enrolled.

Let’s start with loading the data and looking at some descriptive statistics.

use http://www.ats.ucla.edu/stat/stata/dae/poisson_sim, clear sum num_awards mathVariable | Obs Mean Std. Dev. Min Max -------------+-------------------------------------------------------- num_awards | 200 .63 1.052921 0 6 math | 200 52.645 9.368448 33 75

Each variable has 200 valid observations and their distributions seem quite
reasonable. In this particular the *unconditional* mean and variance of our outcome variable
are not extremely different.

Let’s continue with our description of the variables in this dataset. The
table below shows the average numbers of awards by program type and seems to
suggest that program type is a good candidate for predicting the number of
awards, our outcome variable, because the mean value of the outcome appears to
vary by **prog**.

tabstat num_awards, by(prog) stats(mean sd n)Summary for variables: num_awards by categories of: prog (type of program) prog | mean sd N ---------+------------------------------ general | .2 .4045199 45 academic | 1 1.278521 105 vocation | .24 .5174506 50 ---------+------------------------------ Total | .63 1.052921 200 ----------------------------------------histogram num_awards, discrete freq scheme(s1mono)(start=0, width=1)

## Analysis methods you might consider

Below is a list of some analysis methods you may have encountered. Some of the methods listed are quite reasonable, while others have either fallen out of favor or have limitations.

- Poisson regression – Poisson regression is often used for modeling count data. Poisson regression has a number of extensions useful for count models.
- Negative binomial regression – Negative binomial regression can be used for over-dispersed count data, that is when the conditional variance exceeds the conditional mean. It can be considered as a generalization of Poisson regression since it has the same mean structure as Poisson regression and it has an extra parameter to model the over-dispersion. If the conditional distribution of the outcome variable is over-dispersed, the confidence intervals for Negative binomial regression are likely to be narrower as compared to those from a Poisson regression.
- Zero-inflated regression model – Zero-inflated models attempt to account for excess zeros. In other words, two kinds of zeros are thought to exist in the data, "true zeros" and "excess zeros". Zero-inflated models estimate two equations simultaneously, one for the count model and one for the excess zeros.
- OLS regression – Count outcome variables are sometimes log-transformed and analyzed using OLS regression. Many issues arise with this approach, including loss of data due to undefined values generated by taking the log of zero (which is undefined) and biased estimates.

## Poisson regression

Below we use the **poisson** command to estimate a Poisson regression
model. The **i.** before **prog** indicates that it is a factor variable
(i.e., categorical variable), and that it should be included in the model as a
series of indicator variables.

We use the **vce(robust)** option to obtain robust standard errors for the
parameter estimates as recommended by Cameron and Trivedi (2009) to control for
mild violation of underlying assumptions.

poisson num_awards i.prog math, vce(robust)Iteration 0: log pseudolikelihood = -182.75759 Iteration 1: log pseudolikelihood = -182.75225 Iteration 2: log pseudolikelihood = -182.75225 Poisson regression Number of obs = 200 Wald chi2(3) = 80.15 Prob > chi2 = 0.0000 Log pseudolikelihood = -182.75225 Pseudo R2 = 0.2118 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ | Robust num_awards | Coef. Std. Err. z P>|z| [95% Conf. Interval] -------------+---------------------------------------------------------------- prog | 2 | 1.083859 .3218538 3.37 0.001 .4530373 1.714681 3 | .3698092 .4014221 0.92 0.357 -.4169637 1.156582 | math | .0701524 .0104614 6.71 0.000 .0496485 .0906563 _cons | -5.247124 .6476195 -8.10 0.000 -6.516435 -3.977814 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*all*of the estimated coefficients are equal to zero–a test of the model as a whole. From the p-value, we can see that the model is statistically significant. The header also includes a pseudo-R

^{2}, which is 0.21 in this example.

**math**is .07. This means that the expected increase in log count for a one-unit increase in

**math**is .07. The indicator variable

**2.prog**is the expected difference in log count between group 2 (

**prog**=2) and the reference group (

**prog**=1). Compared to level 1 of

**prog**, the expected log count for level 2 of

**prog**increases by about 1.1. The indicator variable

**3.prog**is the expected difference in log count between group 3 (

**prog**=3) and the reference group (

**prog**=1). Compared to level 1 of

**prog**, the expected log count for level 3 of

**prog**increases by about .37. To determine if

**prog**itself, overall, is statistically significant, we can use the

**test**command to obtain the two degrees-of-freedom test of this variable.

The two degree-of-freedom chi-square test indicates that **prog**, taken
together, is a
statistically significant predictor of **num_awards**.

test 2.prog 3.prog( 1) [num_awards]2.prog = 0 ( 2) [num_awards]3.prog = 0 chi2( 2) = 14.76 Prob > chi2 = 0.0006

To help assess the fit of the model, the **estat gof** command can be used to
obtain the goodness-of-fit chi-squared test. This is not a test of the model
coefficients (which we saw in the header information), but a test of the model form:
Does the poisson model form fit our data?

estat gofGoodness-of-fit chi2 = 189.4496 Prob > chi2(196) = 0.6182 Pearson goodness-of-fit = 212.1437 Prob > chi2(196) = 0.2040

We conclude that the model fits reasonably well because the goodness-of-fit chi-squared test is not statistically significant. If the test had been statistically significant, it would indicate that the data do not fit the model well. In that situation, we may try to determine if there are omitted predictor variables, if our linearity assumption holds and/or if there is an issue of over-dispersion.

Sometimes, we might want to present the regression results as incident rate
ratios, we can use the
**irr** option. These IRR values are equal to our coefficients from the
output above exponentiated.

poisson, irrPoisson regression Number of obs = 200 Wald chi2(3) = 80.15 Prob > chi2 = 0.0000 Log pseudolikelihood = -182.75225 Pseudo R2 = 0.2118 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ | Robust num_awards | IRR Std. Err. z P>|z| [95% Conf. Interval] -------------+---------------------------------------------------------------- prog | 2 | 2.956065 .9514208 3.37 0.001 1.573083 5.554903 3 | 1.447458 .5810418 0.92 0.357 .6590449 3.179049 | math | 1.072672 .0112216 6.71 0.000 1.050902 1.094893 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The output above indicates that the incident rate for **2.prog** is 2.96
times the incident rate for the reference group (**1.prog**). Likewise,
the incident rate for **3.prog** is 1.45 times the incident rate for the
reference group holding the other variables constant. The percent change in the incident rate of **num_awards**
is an increase of 7% for every unit increase in **math**.

Recall the form of our model equation:

log(num_awards) = Intercept + b

_{1}(prog=2) + b_{2}(prog=3) + b_{3}math.

This implies:

num_awards = exp(Intercept + b

_{1}(prog=2) + b_{2}(prog=3)+ b_{3}math) = exp(Intercept) * exp(b_{1}(prog=2)) * exp(b_{2}(prog=3)) * exp(b_{3}math)

The coefficients have an *additive* effect in the log(y) scale and the IRR
have a *multiplicative* effect in the y scale.

For additional information on the various metrics in which the results can be
presented, and the interpretation of such, please see *Regression Models for
Categorical Dependent Variables Using Stata, Second Edition* by J. Scott Long
and Jeremy Freese (2006).

To understand the model better, we can use the **margins**
command. Below we use the **
margins** command to calculate the predicted counts at each level of
**prog**, holding all other variables (in this example, **math**) in the
model at their mean values.

margins prog, atmeansAdjusted predictions Number of obs = 200 Model VCE : Robust Expression : Predicted number of events, predict() at : 1.prog = .225 (mean) 2.prog = .525 (mean) 3.prog = .25 (mean) math = 52.645 (mean) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ | Delta-method | Margin Std. Err. z P>|z| [95% Conf. Interval] -------------+---------------------------------------------------------------- prog | 1 | .211411 .0627844 3.37 0.001 .0883558 .3344661 2 | .6249446 .0887008 7.05 0.000 .4510943 .7987949 3 | .3060086 .0828648 3.69 0.000 .1435966 .4684205 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the output above, we see that the predicted number of events for level 1
of **prog** is about .21, holding **math** at its mean. The predicted
number of events for level 2 of **prog** is higher at .62, and the
predicted number of events for level 3 of **prog** is about .31. Note that
the predicted count of level 2 of **prog** is (.6249446/.211411) = 2.96 times
higher than the predicted count for level 1 of **prog**. This matches what we
saw in the IRR output table.

Below we will obtain the predicted counts for values of **math**
that range from 35 to 75 in increments of 10.

margins, at(math=(35(10)75)) vsquishPredictive margins Number of obs = 200 Model VCE : Robust Expression : Predicted number of events, predict() 1._at : math = 35 2._at : math = 45 3._at : math = 55 4._at : math = 65 5._at : math = 75 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ | Delta-method | Margin Std. Err. z P>|z| [95% Conf. Interval] -------------+---------------------------------------------------------------- _at | 1 | .1311326 .0358696 3.66 0.000 .0608295 .2014358 2 | .2644714 .047518 5.57 0.000 .1713379 .3576049 3 | .5333923 .0575203 9.27 0.000 .4206546 .64613 4 | 1.075758 .1220143 8.82 0.000 .8366147 1.314902 5 | 2.169615 .4115856 5.27 0.000 1.362922 2.976308 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The table above shows that with **prog** at its observed values and **math**
held at 35 for all observations, the average predicted count (or average number of
awards) is about .13; when **math** = 75, the average predicted count is about 2.17.
If we compare the predicted counts at math = 35 and math = 45, we can see that
the ratio is (.2644714/.1311326) = 2.017. This matches the IRR of 1.0727 for a
10 unit change: 1.0727^10 = 2.017.

The user-written **fitstat** command (as well as Stata’s **estat**
commands) can be used to obtain additional information that may be helpful if
you want to compare models. You can type **search fitstat** to download
this program (see
How can I used the search command to search for programs and get additional
help? for more information about using **search**).

fitstatMeasures of Fit for poisson of num_awards Log-Lik Intercept Only: -231.864 Log-Lik Full Model: -182.752 D(195): 365.505 LR(3): 98.223 Prob > LR: 0.000 McFadden's R2: 0.212 McFadden's Adj R2: 0.190 ML (Cox-Snell) R2: 0.388 Cragg-Uhler(Nagelkerke) R2: 0.430 AIC: 1.878 AIC*n: 375.505 BIC: -667.667 BIC': -82.328 BIC used by Stata: 386.698 AIC used by Stata: 373.505

You can graph the predicted number of events with the commands below. The graph indicates that the most awards are predicted for those in the academic program (prog = 2), especially if the student has a high math score. The lowest number of predicted awards is for those students in the general program (prog = 1).

predict c separate c, by(prog) twoway scatter c1 c2 c3 math, connect(l l l) sort /// ytitle("Predicted Count") ylabel( ,nogrid) legend(rows(3)) /// legend(ring(0) position(10)) scheme(s1mono)

## Things to consider

- If overdispersion seems to be an issue, we should first check if
our model is appropriately specified, such as omitted variables and
functional forms. For example, if we omitted the predictor variable
**prog**in the example above, our model would seem to have a problem with over-dispersion. In other words, a mis-specified model could present a symptom like an over-dispersion problem. - Assuming that the model is correctly specified, you may want to check for
overdispersion.
There are several ways to do this including the likelihood ratio test of
over-dispersion parameter alpha by running the same regression model using
negative binomial distribution (
**nbreg**). - One common cause of over-dispersion is excess zeros, which in turn are generated by an additional data generating process. In this situation, zero-inflated model should be considered.
- If the data generating process does not allow for any 0s (such as the number of days spent in the hospital), then a zero-truncated model may be more appropriate.
- Count data often have an exposure variable, which indicates the number
of times the event could have happened. This variable should be
incorporated into a Poisson model with the use of the
**exp()**option. - The outcome variable in a Poisson regression cannot have negative numbers, and the exposure cannot have 0s.
- In Stata, a Poisson model can be estimated via
**glm**command with the log link and the Poisson family. - You will need to use the
**glm**command to obtain the residuals to check other assumptions of the Poisson model (see Cameron and Trivedi (1998) and Dupont (2002) for more information). - Many different measures of pseudo-R-squared exist. They all attempt to provide information similar to that provided by R-squared in OLS regression, even though none of them can be interpreted exactly as R-squared in OLS regression is interpreted. For a discussion of various pseudo-R-squares, see Long and Freese (2006) or our FAQ page What are pseudo R-squareds?.
- Poisson regression is estimated via maximum likelihood estimation. It usually requires a large sample size.

## See also

- Annotated output for the poisson command
- Stata FAQ: How can I use countfit in choosing a count model?
- Stata online manual
- Stata FAQs

## References

- Cameron, A. C. and Trivedi, P. K. (2009).
*Microeconometrics Using Stata*. College Station, TX: Stata Press. - Cameron, A. C. and Trivedi, P. K. (1998).
*Regression Analysis of Count Data*. New York: Cambridge Press. - Cameron, A. C. Advances in Count Data Regression Talk for the Applied Statistics Workshop, March 28, 2009. http://cameron.econ.ucdavis.edu/racd/count.html .
- Dupont, W. D. (2002).
*Statistical Modeling for Biomedical Researchers: A Simple Introduction to the Analysis of Complex Data.*New York: Cambridge Press. - Long, J. S. (1997).
*Regression Models for Categorical and Limited Dependent Variables.*Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. - Long, J. S. and Freese, J. (2006).
*Regression Models for Categorical Dependent Variables Using Stata, Second Edition*. College Station, TX: Stata Press.