Re: [R] Robust standard errors in logistic regression

From: Thomas Lumley <>
Date: Thu 06 Jul 2006 - 01:56:40 EST

On Wed, 5 Jul 2006, Martin Maechler wrote:
>>>>>> "Celso" == Celso Barros <>
>>>>>> on Wed, 5 Jul 2006 04:50:29 -0300 writes:
> [...............]
> Celso> By the way, I was wondering if there is a way to use rlm (from MASS)
> Celso> to estimate robust standard errors for logistic regression?
> rlm stands for 'robust lm'. What you need here is 'robust glm'.
> I've already replied to a similar message by you,
> mentioning the (relatively) new package "robustbase".
> After installing it, you can
> use
> robustbase::glmrob()

We have a clash of terminology here. The "robust standard errors" that "sandwich" and "robcov" give are almost completely unrelated to glmrob(). My guess is that Celso wants glmrob(), but I don't know for sure.

The Huber/White sandwich variance estimator for parameters in an ordinary generalized linear model gives an estimate of the variance that is consistent if the systematic part of the model is correctly specified and conservative otherwise. It is a computationally cheap linear approximation to the bootstrap. These variance estimators seem to usually be called "model-robust", though I prefer Nils Hjort's suggestion of "model-agnostic", which avoids confusion with "robust statistics". This is what sandwich and robcov() do.

glmrob() and rlm() give robust estimation of regression parameters. That is, if the data come from a model that is close to the exponential family model underlying glm, the estimates will be close to the parameters from that exponential family model. This is a more common statistical sense of the term "robust".

I think the confusion has been increased by the fact that earlier S implementations of robust regression didn't provide standard errors, whereas rlm() and glmrob() do. This was partly a quality-of-implementation issue and partly because of theoretical difficulties with, eg, lms().


Thomas Lumley			Assoc. Professor, Biostatistics	University of Washington, Seattle

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