Use the LENGTH statement to pre-set the lengths of character variables in SAS – with a comparison to R

I often create character variables (i.e. variables with strings of text as their values) in SAS, and they sometimes don’t render as expected.  Here is an example involving the built-in data set SASHELP.CLASS.

Here is the code:

data c1;
     set sashelp.class;
     * define a new character variable to classify someone as tall or short;
     if height > 60
     then height_class = 'Tall';
          else height_class = 'Short';

* print the results for the first 5 rows;
proc print
     data = c1 (obs = 5);

Here is the result:

Obs Name Sex Age Height Weight height_class
1 Alfred M 14 69.0 112.5 Tall
2 Alice F 13 56.5 84.0 Shor
3 Barbara F 13 65.3 98.0 Tall
4 Carol F 14 62.8 102.5 Tall
5 Henry M 14 63.5 102.5 Tall

What happened?  Why does the word “Short” render as “Shor”?

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New Job at the Bank of Montreal in Toronto

I have accepted an offer from the Bank of Montreal to become a Manager of Operational Risk Analytics and Modelling at its corporate headquarter office in Toronto.  Thus, I have resigned from my job at the British Columbia Cancer Agency.  I will leave Vancouver at the end of December, 2015, and start my new job at the beginning of January, 2016.

I have learned some valuable skills and met some great people here in Vancouver over the past 2 years.  My R programming skills have improved a lot, especially in text processing.  My SAS programming skills have improved a lot, and I began a new section on my blog to SAS programming as a result of what I learned.  I volunteered and delivered presentations for the Vancouver SAS User Group (VanSUG) – once on statistical genetics, and another on sampling strategies in analytical chemistry, ANOVA, and PROC TRANSPOSE.  I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting some smart and helpful people at the Data Science, Machine Learning, and R Programming Meetups.

I lived in Toronto from 2011 to 2013 while pursuing my Master’s degree in statistics at the  University of Toronto and working as a statistician at Predicum.  I look forward to re-connecting with my colleagues there.

Separating Unique and Duplicate Observations Using PROC SORT in SAS 9.3 and Newer Versions

As Fareeza Khurshed commented in my previous blog post, there is a new option in SAS 9.3 and later versions that allows sorting and the identification of duplicates to be done in one step.  My previous trick uses FIRST.variable and LAST.variable to separate the unique observations from the duplicate observations, but that requires sorting the data set first before using the DATA step to do the separation.  If you have SAS 9.3 or a newer version, here is an example of doing it in one step using PROC SORT.

There is a data set called ADOMSG in the SASHELP library that is built into SAS.  It has an identifier called MSGID, and there are duplicates by MSGID.  Let’s create 2 data sets out of SASHELP.ADOMSG:

  • DUPLICATES for storing the duplicate observations
  • SINGLES for storing the unique observations
proc sort
     data = sashelp.adomsg
          out = duplicates
          uniqueout = singles
     by msgid;

Here is the log:

NOTE: There were 459 observations read from the data set SASHELP.ADOMSG.
NOTE: 300 observations with unique key values were deleted.
NOTE: The data set WORK.DUPLICATES has 159 observations and 6 variables.
NOTE: The data set WORK.SINGLES has 300 observations and 6 variables.
NOTE: PROCEDURE SORT used (Total process time):
real time 0.28 seconds
cpu time 0.00 seconds

Note that the number of observations in WORK.DUPLICATES and WORK.SINGLES add to 459, the total number of observations in the original data set.

In addition to Fareeza, I also thank CB for sharing this tip.

Resources for Learning Data Manipulation in R, SAS and Microsoft Excel

I had the great pleasure of speaking to the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Simon Fraser University on last Friday to share my career advice with its students and professors.  I emphasized the importance of learning skills in data manipulation during my presentation, and I want to supplement my presentation by posting some useful resources for this skill.  If you are new to data manipulation, these are good guides for how to get started in R, SAS and Microsoft Excel.

For R, I recommend Winston Chang’s excellent web site, “Cookbook for R“.  It has a specific section on manipulating data; this is a comprehensive list of the basic skills that every data analyst and statistician should learn.

For SAS, I recommend the UCLA statistical computing web page that is adapted from Oliver Schabenberger’s web site.

For Excel, I recommend Excel Easy, a web site that was started at the University of Amsterdam in 2010.  It is a good resource for learning about Excel in general, and there is no background required.  I specifically recommend the “Functions” and “Data Analysis” sections.

A blog called teachr has a good list of Top 10 skills in Excel to learn.

I like to document tips and tricks for R and SAS that I like to use often, especially if I struggled to find them on the Internet.  I encourage you to check them out from time to time, especially in my “Data Analysis” category.

If you have any other favourite resources for learning data manipulation or data analysis, please share them in the comments!

Performing Logistic Regression in R and SAS


My statistics education focused a lot on normal linear least-squares regression, and I was even told by a professor in an introductory statistics class that 95% of statistical consulting can be done with knowledge learned up to and including a course in linear regression.  Unfortunately, that advice has turned out to vastly underestimate the variety and depth of problems that I have encountered in statistical consulting, and the emphasis on linear regression has not paid dividends in my statistics career so far.  Wisdom from veteran statisticians and my own experience combine to suggest that logistic regression is actually much more commonly used in industry than linear regression.  I have already started a series of short lessons on binary classification in my Statistics Lesson of the Day and Machine Learning Lesson of the Day.    In this post, I will show how to perform logistic regression in both R and SAS.  I will discuss how to interpret the results in a later post.

The Data Set

The data set that I will use is slightly modified from Michael Brannick’s web page that explains logistic regression.  I copied and pasted the data from his web page into Excel, modified the data to create a new data set, then saved it as an Excel spreadsheet called heart attack.xlsx.

This data set has 3 variables (I have renamed them for convenience in my R programming).

  1. ha2  – Whether or not a patient had a second heart attack.  If ha2 = 1, then the patient had a second heart attack; otherwise, if ha2 = 0, then the patient did not have a second heart attack.  This is the response variable.
  2. treatment – Whether or not the patient completed an anger control treatment program.
  3. anxiety – A continuous variable that scores the patient’s anxiety level.  A higher score denotes higher anxiety.

Read the rest of this post to get the full scripts and view the full outputs of this logistic regression model in both R and SAS!

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Vancouver SAS User Group Meeting – Wednesday, November 26, 2014, at Holiday Inn Vancouver-Centre (West Broadway)

I am pleased to have recently joined the executive organizing team of the Vancouver SAS User Group.  We hold meetings twice per year to allow Metro Vancouver users of all kinds of SAS products to share their knowledge, tips and advice with others.  These events are free to attend, but registration is required.

SAS Logo - The Power to Know

Our next meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 26, 2014.  Starting from 8:30 am, a free breakfast will be served while registration takes place.  The session will begin at 9:00 am and end at 12:30 pm with a prize draw.

Please note that there is a new location for this meeting: the East and Centre Ballrooms at Holiday Inn Vancouver-Centre at 711 West Broadway in Vancouver.  We will also experiment with holding a half-day session by ending at 12:30 pm at this meeting.  Visit our web site for more information and to register for this free event!

If you will attend this event, please feel free to come and say “Hello”!

Read the rest of this post for the full agenda!

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Calculating the sum or mean of a numeric (continuous) variable by a group (categorical) variable in SAS


A common task in data analysis and statistics is to calculate the sum or mean of a continuous variable.  If that variable can be categorized into 2 or more classes, you may want to get the sum or mean for each class.

This sounds like a simple task, yet I took a surprisingly long time to learn how to do this in SAS and get exactly what I want – a new data with with each category as the identifier and the calculated sum/mean as the value of a second variable.  Here is an example to show you how to do it using PROC MEANS.

Read more to see an example data set and get the SAS code to calculate the sum or mean of a continuous variable by a categorical variable!

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Useful Options For Every SAS Program – Lessons and Resources from Dr. Jerry Brunner


Today, I want to share some useful options to put at the beginning of every SAS program that I write.  These options will make the practicality of using SAS much easier.  My applied statistics professor from the University of Toronto, Jerry Brunner*, taught me some of these options when I first learned SAS in our class, and I’m grateful for that.  In later instances of using SAS in team projects, I have met SAS programmers who were delightfully surprised by the existence of these options and desperately wished that they had learned them earlier.  I hope that they will help you with your SAS programming.  I have also learned some useful options by posting questions on the SAS Support Communities online forum.


Clearing Output

After running your SAS program many times to test and debug, you will have accumulated numerous pages of old and useless output and log.  Scrolling through and searching for the desired portion to read in either file can be tedious and difficult.  Thus, it’s really helpful to have the option of clearing all of the output and the log whenever you run your script.  I put the following commands on top of every one of my SAS scripts.

Useful Options For Every SAS Program 
- With Some Tips Learned From Dr. Jerry Brunner
by Eric Cai - The Chemical Statistician

dm 'cle log; cle out;';
ods html closeods html;

dm 'odsresults; clear';
ods listing close;
ods listing;

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