We're learning about multi regression in the current module of my statistics course, and the instructor noted that the sum of square errors (SSE) of a full model such as the one below:


is going to be smaller than the SSE for any reduced model, such as the one below (which we obtain under the assumption that $\beta_1=0$):


I'm having trouble understanding why this is true. If SSE is defined as:


Shouldn't the full model's SSE be bigger because it has more terms?

  • $\begingroup$ I think that by "multi regression", you mean "multiple regression" (which is different from "multivariate regression", so it's worth writing the extra syllable). $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ Note that the number of terms doesn't show up in your $\sum_{i=1}^n(y_i-\hat{y}_i)$. The only issue is how close you can get $\hat{y}_i$ to $y_i$. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 19:33

1 Answer 1


If $\beta_1$ is exactly zero, the SSE for full and reduced models will be identical. To the extent $\beta_1$ is not exactly zero, the component of the variance (sums of squares) of Y attributable to $x_1$ is added to the SSE, all else being equal, as it is no longer represented in the model anywhere but e (the residual variance).

So the SSE for a reduced model can never be smaller than the SSE for a full model, because it's the SSE for the full model plus any SS attributable to the constraints to the extent they are something other than exactly true.


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