[R] Memisc package: imported varibles from SPSS have got wrong measurement

Paul Bivand paul.bivand at gmail.com
Thu Jul 26 12:00:04 CEST 2012

David's ?measurement
measurement(mz$age_variable) <- "interval"
# where age_variable is the unstated item in that "select" list
is what I use in similar circumstances.

Where it seems to come from is the SPSS users habit of setting value
labels on various categories of user-missing values - so a survey will
commonly have no actual missings (in spss, system-missing) but -9 as
'refused', -8 as 'not contactable' and so on. The importer picks up
the existence of value labels and sets the mode as "nominal" - which
gets transformed into factor in R usage - using base read.spss would
be likely to read these in as factor.

For analysis purposes, these values would be likely to be NA, but it
may be important to record that you were making that change.

On 26 July 2012 01:35, David Winsemius <dwinsemius at comcast.net> wrote:
> On Jul 25, 2012, at 9:48 AM, Marion Wenty wrote:
>> Dear list members,
>> I have got another problem. I imported an SPSS file with the Memisc
>> package
>> using the following commands:
>> mz <- spss.system.file("myspssfile.sav")
>> mz <- subset(mz,select=c(
>> bsex,balt,xurb,dtaet,kartab,bgeb,boseit,bgeblan,xnuts2,kausb,xerwstat,
>> asbper,asbhh,ajahr,aquartal,bstaat,xwieoft,gew1,apkz,bpkzm,bpkzv))
> The memisc package help file for spss.system.file() (actually labeled
> "importers") says that there is an S4 method for "subset" there does not
> seem to be a separate page describing its behavior or values
>> Afterwards I checked the measurements of the variables
> What does that phrase mean? What code did you actually use?
>> and they are all
>> right for most of them (e.g. the variable containing the sex of a person
>> is
>> "nominal" and the variable containing the year is "interval"). For two of
>> the variables the measurement is not o.k, though. They exclusively contain
>> numbers in the SPSS file (e.g. the age of a person) - and no NAs - but
>> have
>> got the measurement "nominal"!
> Hard to say. There is no R storage mode that is called "nominal". Perhaps
> some sort of memisc-specific terminology? Or perhaps something in your spss
> dataset... to which you have not provided access? Or the default setting for
> the spss.system.file access method?  I know that the Hmisc package's
> describe() function will report out a variable as though it were categorical
> if there are only 8 or fewer unique values.
> After looking at further help pages and trying the help pages code, I am
> guessing that some of my puzzlement might be answered by reading the
> vignettes, but you can do that yourself.
> Here's a hackish guess ... try:
> ?measurement
> measurement(mz$age_variable) <- "interval"
> # where age_variable is the unstated item in that "select" list
> --
> David Winsemius, MD
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