The classical F-test for subsets of variables in multilinear regression has the form $$ F = \frac{(\mbox{SSE}(R) - \mbox{SSE}(B))/(df_R - df_B)}{\mbox{SSE}(B)/df_B}, $$ where $\mbox{SSE}(R)$ is the sum of squared errors under the 'reduced' model, which nests inside the 'big' model $B$, and $df$ are the degrees of freedom of the two models. Under the null hypothesis that the extra variables in the 'big' model have no linear explanatory power, the statistic is distributed as an F with $df_R - df_B$ and $df_B$ degrees of freedom.

What is the distribution, however, under the alternative? I assume it is a non-central F (I hope not doubly non-central), but I cannot find any reference on what exactly the non-centrality parameter is. I am going to guess it depends on the true regression coefficients $\beta$, and probably on the design matrix $X$, but beyond that I am not so sure.


2 Answers 2


The noncentrality parameter is $\delta^{2}$, the projection for the restricted model is $P_{r}$, $\beta$ is the vector of true parameters, $X$ is the design matrix for the unrestricted (true) model, $|| x ||$ is the norm:

$$ \delta^{2} = \frac{|| X \beta - P_{r} X \beta ||^{2}}{\sigma^{2}} $$

You can read the formula like this: $E(y | X) = X \beta$ is the vector of expected values conditional on the design matrix $X$. If you treat $X \beta$ as an empirical data vector $y$, then its projection onto the restricted model subspace is $P_{r} X \beta$, which gives you the prediction $\hat{y}$ from the restricted model for that "data". Consequently, $X \beta - P_{r} X \beta$ is analogous to $y - \hat{y}$ and gives you the error of that prediction. Hence $|| X \beta - P_{r} X \beta ||^{2}$ gives the sum of squares of that error. If the restricted model is true, then $X \beta$ already is within the subspace defined by $X_{r}$, and $P_{r} X \beta = X \beta$, such that the noncentrality parameter is $0$.

You should find this in Mardia, Kent & Bibby. (1980). Multivariate Analysis.

  • $\begingroup$ great! should the norm be squared? Otherwise it seems like the units matter? You state it is 'sum of squares', so I think it is the norm squared.. $\endgroup$
    – shabbychef
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ @shabbychef Of course you're right, thanks for catching that! $\endgroup$
    – caracal
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 5:26

I confirmed @caracal's answer with a Monte Carlo experiment. I generated random instances from a linear model (with the size random), computed the F-statistic and computed the p-value using the non-centrality parameter $$ \delta^2 = \frac{||X\beta_1 - X\beta_2||^2}{\sigma^2}, $$ Then I plotted the empirical cdf of these p-values. If the non-centrality parameter (and the code!) is correct, I should get a near uniform cdf, which is the case:

empirical CDF of what should be normal

Here is the R code (pardon the style, I'm still learning):

#sum of squares
sum2 <- function(x) { return(sum(x * x)) }
#random integer between n and 2n
rint <- function(n) { return(ceiling(runif(1,min=n,max=2*n))) }
#generate random instance from linear model plus noise.
#n observations of p2 vector
#regress against all variables and against a subset of p1 of them
#compute the F-statistic for the test of the p2-p1 marginal variables
#compute the p-value under the putative non-centrality parameter
gend <- function(n,p1,p2,sig = 1) {
 beta2 <- matrix(rnorm(p2,sd=0.1),nrow=p2)
 beta1 <- matrix(beta2[1:p1],nrow=p1)
 X <- matrix(rnorm(n*p2),nrow=n,ncol=p2)
 yt1 <- X[,1:p1] %*% beta1
 yt2 <- X %*% beta2
 y <- yt2 + matrix(rnorm(n,mean=0,sd=sig),nrow=n)
 ncp <- (sum2(yt2 - yt1)) / (sig ** 2)
 bhat2 <- lm(y ~ X - 1)
 bhat1 <- lm(y ~ X[,1:p1] - 1)
 SSE1 <- sum2(bhat1$residual)
 SSE2 <- sum2(bhat2$residual)
 df1 <- bhat1$df.residual
 df2 <- bhat2$df.residual
 Fstat <- ((SSE1 - SSE2) / (df1 - df2)) / (SSE2 / bhat2$df.residual)
 pval <- pf(Fstat,df=df1-df2,df2=df2,ncp=ncp)
#call the above function, but randomize the problem size (within reason)
genr <- function(n,p1,p2,sig=1) {
 use.p1 <- rint(p1)
 use.p2 <- use.p1 + rint(p2 - p1)
ntrial <- 4096
ssize <- 256
z <- replicate(ntrial,genr(ssize,p1=4,p2=10))
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1 for the follow-up with the code. Always good to see that. $\endgroup$
    – mpiktas
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 5:44

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