I have a survey with 25 variables (160 observations for each var). Most are categorical, some are continuous. The variable of interest is categorical (binomial). If I do:

model <- glm(Y~., family=binomial(link='logit'), data=...)

I get a warning message:

1: glm.fit: algorithm did not converge
2: glm.fit: fitted probabilities numerically 0 or 1 occurred

I'm pretty sure there's no perfect separation, so the problem is probably overfitting right?

  1. I tried to do two things. The first thing I did was avoid any variable that gave me that warning message, this left me with 7 variables. I performed an AIC test and got it down to three:

    model_noerror <- glm(Y~sex+race+shoes)

    Obviously I shouldn't be avoiding variables that give me a separation problem. So I looked it up and people suggested overfitting, which can be handled with LASSO.

  2. So I used LASSO:

    cv.lasso  <- cv.glmnet(x, y, family='binomial') 
    penalty   <- cv.lasso$lambda.min 
    fit.lasso <- glmnet(x, y, family='binomial', alpha=1, lambda=penalty) 

    LASSO told me 10 variables were worth using. But if I include them all, again I get this "0 or 1 occurred" error message.

What could I do?

Edit 1:

Here is the summary(model) with the 10 variables LASSO suggested


Coefficients: (1 not defined because of singularities)
               Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)
(Intercept)   2.769e+01  1.717e+05   0.000    1.000
raceB      -3.756e+01  8.725e+03  -0.004    0.997
raceC      -1.809e+01  6.169e+03  -0.003    0.998
genderB       -2.131e+00  1.835e+00  -1.161    0.246
genderC        3.969e+01  3.638e+04   0.001    0.999
sexorD       -2.608e+01  3.580e+04  -0.001    0.999
sexorE       -1.496e+01  7.994e+04   0.000    1.000
collegeB -1.735e+01  7.994e+04   0.000    1.000
collegeC -1.615e+01  7.994e+04   0.000    1.000
(Dispersion parameter for binomial family taken to be 1)
Null deviance: 94.242  on 119  degrees of freedom
Residual deviance: 24.264 on 85 degrees of freedom AIC: 94.264
Number of Fisher Scoring iterations: 22

That's not everything but I think you get the point.

Edit 2:

Here's the D matrix from the SVD of my model matrix.

x <- (model.matrix(Y~.,data=data)) svd(x)$d

[1] 1.106585e+02 2.284868e+01 2.004170e+01 1.791028e+01 1.303047e+01 1.134027e+01 1.048113e+01 9.474703e+00 8.521352e+00 8.066918e+00 7.931767e+00
[12] 7.606502e+00 7.435396e+00 6.935058e+00 6.687999e+00 6.382451e+00 6.179303e+00 5.904702e+00 5.533401e+00 5.428218e+00 5.335237e+00 5.237369e+00
[23] 4.874816e+00 4.612060e+00 4.544942e+00 4.475750e+00 4.349221e+00 4.135874e+00 4.022473e+00 3.842192e+00 3.708770e+00 3.656491e+00 3.518284e+00
[34] 3.371328e+00 3.305039e+00 3.087673e+00 2.772643e+00 2.743743e+00 2.678787e+00 2.536824e+00 2.515302e+00 2.347022e+00 2.270346e+00 2.180056e+00
[45] 2.162843e+00 2.118737e+00 2.043311e+00 1.900974e+00 1.823667e+00 1.762206e+00 1.686792e+00 1.615979e+00 1.583439e+00 1.430641e+00 1.408800e+00
[56] 1.257654e+00 1.162283e+00 1.110813e+00 1.089611e+00 1.023927e+00 9.276928e-01 7.876539e-01 7.600454e-01 6.976948e-01 6.817119e-01 6.322815e-01
[67] 5.933869e-01 5.189669e-01 4.339124e-01 3.667706e-01 2.506821e-01 2.274977e-01 1.084797e-14 1.084797e-14

Edit 3:

I've tried running a Principal Component Analysis. The results are not promising: https://i.sstatic.net/sK61m.png It seems I can only remove a few variables

new_data <- subset(data, select =-c(Y))
new_data <- dummy.data.frame(data)

pca.train <- new_data[1:120,]
pca.test <- new_data[121:161,]
pca.train <- pca.train[,!apply(pca.train, MARGIN = 2, function(x) max(x, na.rm = TRUE) == min(x, na.rm = TRUE))]
prin_comp <- prcomp(pca.train,scale.=T)

std_dev <- prin_comp$sdev
pr_var <- std_dev^2
prop_varex <- pr_var/sum(pr_var)
plot(prop_varex,xlab="Principal Component",ylab="Proportion of Variance Explained",type="b")

I got an "cannot rescale a constant/zero column to unit variance" error without the third line, so I added that in to remove constant/zero columns.

Edit 4:

If I run a glm with the first 5 Principal Components from my PCA analysis, the auc is .8864 which is pretty good I think.

But since my overall PCA analysis looks bad, I guess I'm stuck doing univariate analysis for each variable at a time?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Why are you sure there's no separation? (Cf., Logistic glm with good predictors is giving p-values = 1.) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 2:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @GordonSmyth, "simply examining the statistical significance of your predictors and removing variables that are not significant" is not a good strategy (see here), especially when there is separation. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ @GordonSmyth I updated my post with a short summary of my model. With P values that high everywhere I'm not sure I could do meaningful variable selection. $\endgroup$
    – downhill95
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 3:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How many observations in each of the response groups do you have? What is the number of model coefficients? $\endgroup$
    – Michael M
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 8:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelM 's question is key. This should have been included in the original question. There is no rational answer without knowing the effective sample size. For the problem, without using data reduction, the needed sample size may be roughly estimated to satisfy f > 15*25 where f is the frequency of events or non-events, whichever is lower. But data reduction is advised. And you'll find that lasso features selected will be highly unreliable unless predictors are uncorrelated and sample size is huge. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 13:20

1 Answer 1


Getting fitted values that are 0 or 1 is not itself a problem, nor it is necessarily a sign of over-fitting. Other things being equal, getting fitted probabilities near to 0 or 1 is good rather than bad, suggesting that the predictor variables are correlated with the response. The lack of convergence is the same -- it is just a consequence of the 0 or 1 fitted values.

Neither warning is an "error message". These warnings do however alert you that you will not be able to use the coefficient standard errors and p-values that are produced by the summary table:


Looking at the summary table you give, it is evident that most of the coefficients and standard errors in your table are actually infinite. It is well known that logistic regression does not yield usable z-statistics in this situation. You need to use likelihood ratio tests (LRTs) instead. The variables may well be highly significant by LRT even if the Wald p-values in the summary table were all near 1. See p-value from a binomial model glm for a binomial predictor for an example of this.

To see LRTs for your fit, you could try

anova(model, test="Chi")

but beware that the p-values you see are order dependent. This is a "sequential analysis of deviance table". Each variable is added to the model one at a time, in the same order you included them in the model formula. Each variable is adjusted for the variables above it in the table, so each p-value tests whether that variable adds something useful over the variables already in the model. If you change the order of the variables, then the p-values will change as well.

It is also evident that you do have over-fitting in the sense that you are including too many predictor variables that are collinear with one another and therefore mutually redundant. You cannot possibly interpret the logistic regression with 25 variables, and it is likely to be pretty useless for prediction as well.

Rather than examining individual p-values, you need to test the overall significance of the regression model. You can do this by comparing the full and null models:

model <- glm(Y~., family=binomial(link='logit'), data=...)
null.model <- glm(Y~1, family=binomial(link='logit'), data=...)
anova(null.model, model, test="Chi")

If the overall model is not significant, then there is nothing to be done. In that case, trying to do any model selection would be purposeless.

If the overall model is significant, then you have the problem of which variables to keep. I don't agree that the LASSO is useful here, because it has treated all the columns of the design matrix as continuous covariates. It has not taken into account the fact that columns are grouped by factor.

There are lots of ways to proceed, but I would be tempted to just try logistic regression with one factor or variable at a time, and seeing if any of the individual variables give you good prediction.

It might also be useful to examine collinearity of your variables. For example

 table(race, college)

would tell you if you have representatives of all races at all college levels. If race and college are highly correlated, then they might be mutually redundant in your model. Same for other variables such as gender and sexor.

A bit of common sense might be required, instead of use of automatic procedures.

  • $\begingroup$ "model" gives me the same warning message as above. The anova chi test gave me a p-value of 0.0002838. Thank you for your help. $\endgroup$
    – downhill95
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 4:35
  • $\begingroup$ I checked multicolinearity and see only 1 that is above .65. I believe the issue is that I may need to reduce the dimensions of some of the variables. If I do summary(model) I get race is A:80 B:5 and income is A:5,B:10,C:50. Perhaps the low counts justifies dropping the race variable and putting categories of the income variable together? $\endgroup$
    – downhill95
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 5:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ User2801011, "see only one that is above .65" does not sound like a check of multicollinearity--it sounds like you might have examined only pairwise correlations. What are the singular values of your model matrix? $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 14:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That makes a huge difference! You now show two zeros among the singular values. (Compared to $10^2$, floating point values of $10^{-14}$ are zero.) Your matrix is degenerate. You have collinearity. $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 18:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That's a tough one, because in general collinearity is a property of the entire set of variables, not just a few of them. Belsley, Kuh, and Welsch provide some methods (which haven't so far been described in any post on this site, afaik). You can start by examining the loadings on the principal components: they might suggest collinear combinations. In practice, I believe most people use trial and error guided by understanding of the variables and how they might be interdependent. You ought to focus on the 10 Lasso variables. $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 22:23

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