Statistics How To

Expected Frequency: Definition, Formula, Calculation

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Contingency Tables > Expected Frequency

What is Expected Frequency?

The expected frequency is a probability count that appears in contingency table calculations including the chi-square test. Expected frequencies also used to calculate standardized residuals, where the expected count is subtracted from the observed count in the numerator.

  • Observed Frequencies are counts made from experimental data. In other words, you actually observe the data happening and take measurements. For example, you roll a die ten times and then count how many times each number is rolled. The count is made after the experiment.
  • Expected Frequencies are counts calculated using probability theory. For example, before you roll a six-sided die, you calculate the probability of any one number being rolled as 1/6.

How to Calculate Expected Frequency by Hand

Expected frequencies are calculated for each cell in a contingency table. So if you have, say, 16 cells, you’ll need to perform the steps 16 times (one for each cell). The formula to calculate expected frequency is:

  • Eij = expected frequency for the ith row/jth columm.
  • Ti = total in the ith row
  • Tj = total in the jth column
  • N = table grand total.
  • Tip: You can think of this equation more simply as (row total * column total) / grand total.

    Sample question: What are the expected cell frequencies for the following table?

    Step 1: Find Ti = total in the ith row. The first cell is in the first row (i=1), which has a total of 114.

    Set this number aside for a moment.

    Step 2: Find Tj = total in the jth column. The first cell is in the first column (j=1), which has a total of 102.

    Set this number aside for a moment.

    Step 3: Find N, or the total number of participants/items in the experiment. In a contingency table, this is usually done for you and is tallied up in the bottom right-hand corner. For this example, the total number of participants is 173.

    Step 4: Insert the three numbers from Step 1, 2 , and 3 into the formula and solve:

    The expected cell frequency for cell 1 is 67.214.

    Step 5: Repeat Steps 1 through 4 for each of the other cells.

    The solutions for the remaining cells are:

    • Cell 2 (top right) = (114 * 71) / /173 = 48.786
    • Cell 3 (bottom left) = (59 * 102) / 173 = 34.786
    • Cell 4 (bottom right) = (59 * 71) / 173 = 24.214.
    Stephanie Glen. "Expected Frequency: Definition, Formula, Calculation" From Elementary Statistics for the rest of us!

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