I am interested in changing the null hypotheses using glm() in R.

For example:

x = rbinom(100, 1, .7)  
summary(glm(x ~ 1, family = "binomial"))

tests the hypothesis that $p = 0.5$. What if I want to change the null to $p$ = some arbitrary value, within glm()?

I know this can be done also with prop.test() and chisq.test(), but I'd like to explore the idea of using glm() to test all hypotheses relating to categorical data.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ +1. $p$ evidently refers to the Binomial parameter expressed as a probability. Since the natural link (and the one used by glm by default) is the logit, to avoid confusion it's important to distinguish $p$ from its logit, which is the log odds $\log(p/(1-p))$. $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Dec 29, 2017 at 13:57

3 Answers 3


You can use an offset: glm with family="binomial" estimates parameters on the log-odds or logit scale, so $\beta_0=0$ corresponds to log-odds of 0 or a probability of 0.5. If you want to compare against a probability of $p$, you want the baseline value to be $q = \textrm{logit}(p)=\log(p/(1-p))$. The statistical model is now

\begin{split} Y & \sim \textrm{Binom}(\mu) \\ \mu & =1/(1+\exp(-\eta)) \\ \eta & = \beta_0 + q \end{split}

where only the last line has changed from the standard setup. In R code:

  • use offset(q) in the formula
  • the logit/log-odds function is qlogis(p)
  • slightly annoyingly, you have to provide an offset value for each element in the response variable - R won't automatically replicate a constant value for you. This is done below by setting up a data frame, but you could just use rep(q,100).
x = rbinom(100, 1, .7)
dd <- data.frame(x, q = qlogis(0.7)) 
summary(glm(x ~ 1 + offset(q), data=dd, family = "binomial"))
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ (+1) this will give you the Wald test. A LRT can be done fitting the null model glm(y ~ offset(q)-1, family=binomial, data=dd) and using lrtest from the lmtest package. Pearson's chi-square test is the score test for the GLM model. Wald/LRT/Score are all consistent tests and should provide equivalent inference in reasonably large sample sizes. $\endgroup$
    – AdamO
    Dec 29, 2017 at 17:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think you can also use anova() from base R on the glm to get a LR test $\endgroup$
    – Ben Bolker
    Dec 29, 2017 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, I've lost the habit of using ANOVA. However, I observe anova refuses to print the pvalue for the test whereas lrtest does. $\endgroup$
    – AdamO
    Dec 29, 2017 at 18:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ maybe anova(.,test="Chisq") ? $\endgroup$
    – Ben Bolker
    Dec 29, 2017 at 19:05

Look at confidence interval for parameters of your GLM:

> set.seed(1)
> x = rbinom(100, 1, .7)
> model<-glm(x ~ 1, family = "binomial")
> confint(model)
Waiting for profiling to be done...
    2.5 %    97.5 % 
0.3426412 1.1862042 

This is a confidence interval for log-odds.

For $p=0.5$ we have $\log(odds) = \log \frac{p}{1-p} = \log 1 = 0$. So testing hypothesis that $p=0.5$ is equivalent to checking if confidence interval contains 0. This one does not, so hypothesis is rejected.

Now, for any arbitrary $p$, you can compute log-odds and check if it is inside confidence interval.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ this is useful, but only works for checking whether $p<0.05$. If you want the actual p-value my answer will be more useful. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Bolker
    Dec 29, 2017 at 14:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You can ask for any level of confidence in confint. So it is not only for $p<0,05$. Of course your solution is much better when it comes to calculation of p-value $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2017 at 17:18

It is not (entirely) correct/accurate to use the p-values based on the z-/t-values in the glm.summary function as a hypothesis test.

  1. It is confusing language. The reported values are named z-values. But in this case they use the estimated standard error in place of the true deviation. Therefore in reality they are closer to t-values. Compare the following three outputs:
    1) summary.glm
    2) t-test
    3) z-test

    > set.seed(1)
    > x = rbinom(100, 1, .7)
    > coef1 <- summary(glm(x ~ 1, offset=rep(qlogis(0.7),length(x)), family = "binomial"))$coefficients
    > coef2 <- summary(glm(x ~ 1, family = "binomial"))$coefficients
    > coef1[4]  # output from summary.glm
    [1] 0.6626359
    > 2*pt(-abs((qlogis(0.7)-coef2[1])/coef2[2]),99,ncp=0) # manual t-test
    [1] 0.6635858
    > 2*pnorm(-abs((qlogis(0.7)-coef2[1])/coef2[2]),0,1) # manual z-test
    [1] 0.6626359
  2. They are not exact p-values. An exact computation of the p-value using the binomial distribution would work better (with the computing power nowadays, this is not a problem). The t-distribution, assuming a Gaussian distribution of the error, is not exact (it overestimates p, exceeding the alpha level occurs less often in "reality"). See the following comparison:

    # trying all 100 possible outcomes if the true value is p=0.7
    px <- dbinom(0:100,100,0.7)
    p_model = rep(0,101)
    for (i in 0:100) {
      xi = c(rep(1,i),rep(0,100-i))
      model = glm(xi ~ 1, offset=rep(qlogis(0.7),100), family="binomial")
      p_model[i+1] = 1-summary(model)$coefficients[4]
    # plotting cumulative distribution of outcomes
    outcomes <- p_model[order(p_model)]
    cdf <- cumsum(px[order(p_model)])
         ylab="cumulative probability", 
         xlab= "calculated glm p-value",
    for (i in 1:100) {
    #  lines(1-c(outcomes[i],outcomes[i]),1-c(cdf[i],cdf[i+1]),col=2)
    title("probability for rejection as function of set alpha level")

    CDF of rejection by alpha

    The black curve represents equality. The red curve is below it. That means that for a given calculated p-value by the glm summary function, we find this situation (or larger difference) less often in reality than the p-value indicates.

  • $\begingroup$ Hmm.. I may be confused about the rationale for using the T distribution for a GLM. Can you take a peak at a related question I just asked here? $\endgroup$
    – AdamO
    Dec 29, 2017 at 18:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This answer is interesting but problematic. (1) the OP didn't actually ask about the difference between score, chi-squared, "exact", or GLM-based approaches to testing hypotheses about binomial responses (they might actually know all this stuff already), so this doesn't answer the question that was asked; (2) the estimates of residual variance etc. have a different set of assumptions and sampling distributions from linear models (as in @AdamO's question), so use of a t-test is debatable; ... $\endgroup$
    – Ben Bolker
    Dec 29, 2017 at 19:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ (3) 'exact' confidence intervals for binomial responses are actually tricky ('exact' [Clopper-Wilson] intervals are conservative; score tests may perform better over some ranges $\endgroup$
    – Ben Bolker
    Dec 29, 2017 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Ben You are right that the z-test si actually better than the t-test. The graph displayed in the answer is for the z-test. It uses the output of the GLM function. The bottom-line of my answer was that the "p-value" is a tricky thing. Therefore, I find it better to compute it explicitly, e.g. using the normal distribution, rather than extracting the p-value from a glm function, which has very conveniently been shifted with the offset but hides the origins of the calculations for the p-value. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2017 at 19:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BenBolker, I believe the exact test is indeed conservative, but... only because in reality we are not sampling from perfect binomial distributions. The alternative z-test, is only better from an empirical point of view. It is that the two "errors" cancel each other 1) the binomial distribution not being the real distribution of residuals in practical situations, 2) the z-distribution not being an exact expression for a binomial distribution. It is questionable whether we should prefer the wrong distribution for the wrong model, just because in practice it turns out 'ok'. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2017 at 19:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.