How to Calculate Pooled Standard Deviation in R

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Pooled standard deviation is a useful metric in statistics, particularly in analyses involving the comparison of different groups of data. In essence, the pooled standard deviation is a type of weighted average of standard deviations from multiple groups, taking into account the size of each group. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on how to calculate the pooled standard deviation using R.

Understanding Pooled Standard Deviation

Before we delve into the calculations, let’s take a moment to understand what the pooled standard deviation is and when it is used. The pooled standard deviation is a measure that combines the standard deviations of two or more groups, taking into account the sample size of each group. The idea is to get a better estimate of the population standard deviation in cases where we have multiple groups with different sample sizes.

This statistic is primarily used in hypothesis testing, especially in scenarios such as independent two-sample t-tests, where the goal is to compare the means of two groups. The assumption here is that these groups share the same variance, also known as homoscedasticity.

Calculation of Pooled Standard Deviation

Pooled standard deviation (Sp) is calculated using the following formula:

Sp = sqrt[((n1 – 1)*var1 + (n2 – 1)*var2 + … + (nk – 1)*vark] / (n1 + n2 + … + nk – k)]


  • Sp: pooled standard deviation
  • n1, n2, …, nk: sample sizes of each group
  • var1, var2, …, vark: variances of each group
  • k: number of groups

Now let’s go step by step through the calculation of pooled standard deviation in R.

Step 1: Load your data

First, you’ll need to load your data into R. For this guide, let’s create two vectors representing two different groups of data:

# Create data for group1 and group2
group1 <- c(51, 45, 33, 45, 67)
group2 <- c(23, 43, 23, 43, 45)

Step 2: Calculate the variance for each group

We can use the built-in R function var() to compute the variance for each group:

# Calculate variance for each group
var1 <- var(group1)
var2 <- var(group2)

Step 3: Compute the sample size for each group

The sample size can be obtained using the length() function:

# Compute sample size for each group
n1 <- length(group1)
n2 <- length(group2)

Step 4: Compute the pooled variance

Now we are ready to compute the pooled variance. Recall the formula given earlier; we can implement it in R as follows:

# Compute the pooled variance
pooled_var <- ((n1 - 1)*var1 + (n2 - 1)*var2) / (n1 + n2 - 2)

The term (n1 + n2 - 2) represents the total degrees of freedom.

Step 5: Compute the pooled standard deviation

Finally, to get the pooled standard deviation, we take the square root of the pooled variance. We can use the sqrt() function for this:

# Compute the pooled standard deviation
pooled_sd <- sqrt(pooled_var)

# Print the pooled standard deviation

Wrapping Up: A Function for Pooled Standard Deviation

While the above steps give you the pooled standard deviation for two groups, you might need to compute this statistic for more than two groups frequently. To streamline this process, you can write a function that can handle any number of groups:

# Function to compute pooled standard deviation
pooled_sd <- function(...){
  data <- list(...)
  variances <- sapply(data, var)
  sizes <- sapply(data, length)
  pooled_var <- sum((sizes - 1)*variances) / (sum(sizes) - length(data))

# Usage
group1 <- c(51, 45, 33, 45, 67)
group2 <- c(23, 43, 23, 43, 45)
group3 <- c(56, 78, 67, 65, 44)

result <- pooled_sd(group1, group2, group3)

In the function pooled_sd(), we use the ... to allow any number of arguments to be passed. The sapply() function applies the var() and length() functions to each group in the list, returning a vector of variances and sizes respectively.


The calculation of the pooled standard deviation is a fundamental process in statistical analysis, particularly when comparing means of different groups. While R doesn’t provide a built-in function for this calculation, the process is straightforward and only requires a basic understanding of R syntax and built-in functions.

Remember, the usage of pooled standard deviation assumes that the groups being compared have the same variance. Therefore, it’s crucial to check this assumption before proceeding with any analysis that requires the usage of pooled standard deviation.

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