How to Perform a Brown–Forsythe Test in R

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The Brown–Forsythe test is a statistical method used for testing equality of variances in different samples. This test is often employed as a robust alternative to Levene’s test, which is another test for homogeneity of variances across groups. The Brown–Forsythe test is particularly useful when you’re dealing with data that do not follow a normal distribution, offering a bit more flexibility.

In this comprehensive guide, we will look at how to perform a Brown–Forsythe test using the R programming language. This involves data preparation, loading necessary libraries, executing the test, and interpreting the results.

Table of Contents

  1. Data Preparation
  2. Importing Necessary Libraries
  3. Executing the Brown–Forsythe Test
  4. Interpretation of Results
  5. Additional Tips and Considerations

1. Data Preparation

To perform the Brown–Forsythe test, you will need a dataset with at least two groups that you intend to compare. The data should be formatted in a ‘long’ format rather than a ‘wide’ format.

Long Format Example:

Group  | Value
A      | 23.4
A      | 20.5
A      | 25.7
B      | 32.1
B      | 29.4
B      | 30.9

Wide Format Example:

GroupA | GroupB
23.4   | 32.1
20.5   | 29.4
25.7   | 30.9

The ‘long’ format is generally preferred for this type of statistical analysis.

2. Importing Necessary Libraries

The car package in R offers an implementation of the Brown–Forsythe test. If you haven’t installed this package yet, you can do so by running:


Then, load the library:


3. Executing the Brown–Forsythe Test

Let’s say you have data stored in a CSV file named data.csv, with columns “Group” and “Value”. Here’s how you would read this file into R and perform the Brown–Forsythe test:

# Read the data
data <- read.csv("data.csv")

# Perform the Brown–Forsythe Test
bf_result <- leveneTest(Value ~ Group, data = data, center=median)

# Print the results

In this example, we used leveneTest from the car package. Despite the name, this function can perform both Levene’s test and the Brown–Forsythe test depending on the center argument. For Brown–Forsythe, we set center=median.

4. Interpretation of Results

The output will include a p-value, which you can use to decide whether to reject the null hypothesis (that variances are equal across groups). A small p-value (usually < 0.05) indicates that you should reject the null hypothesis, suggesting that variances are significantly different across groups.

5. Additional Tips and Considerations

  • When using the Brown–Forsythe test, be mindful of sample sizes. Unequal sample sizes can affect the robustness of the test.
  • The choice between Levene’s test and the Brown–Forsythe test often depends on the specific properties of your data. However, Brown–Forsythe is generally considered to be more robust to departures from normality.
  • Before performing the Brown–Forsythe test, it might be useful to visualize the data to get a sense of the distribution of values in different groups.


The Brown–Forsythe test is a useful tool for testing equality of variances across groups. It can be easily implemented in R using the car package. Understanding the underlying assumptions and knowing how to interpret the results are crucial for the correct application of this test.

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