Category Archives: Bayesian statistics

Bayesian estimation of a population proportion

The Basics

In statistics, a binomial proportion confidence interval is a confidence interval for a proportion in a statistical population. It uses the proportion estimated in a statistical sample and allows for sampling error. There are several formulas for a binomial confidence interval, but all of them rely on the assumption of a binomial distribution. In general, a binomial distribution applies when an experiment is repeated a fixed number of times, each trial of the experiment has two possible outcomes (labeled arbitrarily success and failure), the probability of success is the same for each trial, and the trials are statistically independent.

A simple example of a binomial distribution is the set of various possible outcomes, and their probabilities, for the number of heads observed when a (not necessarily fair) coin is flipped ten times. The observed binomial proportion is the fraction of the flips which turn out to be heads. Given this observed proportion, the confidence interval for the true proportion innate in that coin is a range of possible proportions which may contain the true proportion. A 95% confidence interval for the proportion, for instance, will contain the true proportion 95% of the times that the procedure for constructing the confidence interval is employed.

There are several ways to compute a confidence interval for a binomial proportion. The normal approximation interval is the simplest formula, and the one introduced in most basic Statistics classes and textbooks. This formula, however, is based on an approximation that does not always work well. Several competing formulas are available that perform better, especially for situations with a small sample size and a proportion very close to zero or one. The choice of interval will depend on how important it is to use a simple and easy-to-explain interval versus the desire for better accuracy.

Mathematical Overview and Module Walk-Through

Bayesian estimation (Bernoulli parameter) module