cobalt, which stands for Covariate Balance
Tables (and Plots).
cobalt allows users to assess balance on
covariate distributions in preprocessed groups generated through
weighting, matching, or subclassification, such as by using the
cobalt’s primary function is
stands for “balance table”, and is meant to replace (or supplement) the
balance assessment tools found in other R packages. To examine how
bal.tab() integrates with these packages and others, see the help file
?bal.tab, which links to the methods used for
each package. Each page has examples of how
bal.tab() is used with the
package. There are also five vignettes detailing the use of
which can be accessed at
vignette("cobalt"): one for basic uses of
cobalt, one for the use of
cobalt with additional packages, one for
the use of
cobalt with multiply imputed and/or clustered data, one for
the use of
cobalt with longitudinal treatments, and one for the use of
cobalt to generate publication-ready plots. Currently,
compatible with output from
as well as data not processed through these packages.
For more information, check out the
Most of the major conditioning packages contain functions to assess
balance; so why use
cobalt at all?
cobalt arose out of several
desiderata when using these packages: to have standardized measures that
were consistent across all conditioning packages, to allow for
flexibility in the calculation and display of balance measures, and to
incorporate recent methodological recommendations in the assessment of
balance. In addition,
cobalt has unique plotting capabilities that
make use of
ggplot2 in R for balance assessment and reporting.
Because conditioning methods are spread across several packages which
each have their idiosyncrasies in how they report balance (if at all),
comparing the resulting balance from various conditioning methods can be
cobalt unites these packages by providing a single,
flexible tool that intelligently processes output from any of the
conditioning packages and provides the user with both useful defaults
and customizable options for display and calculation.
allows for balance assessment on data not generated through any of the
conditioning packages. In addition,
cobalt has tools for assessing and
reporting balance for clustered data sets, data sets generated through
multiple imputation, and data sets with a continuous treatment variable,
all features that exist in very limited capacities or not at all in
A large focus in developing
cobalt was to streamline output so that
only the most useful, non-redundant, and complete information is
displayed, all at the user’s choice. Balance statistics are intuitive,
methodologically informed, and simple to interpret. Visual displays of
balance reflect the goals of balance assessment rather than being steps
removed. While other packages have focused their efforts on processing
cobalt only assesses balance, and does so particularly well.
New features are being added all the time, following the cutting edge of
methodological work on balance assessment. As new packages and methods
cobalt will be ready to integrate them to further our
goal of simple, unified balance assessment.
Below are examples of
cobalt’s primary functions:
library("cobalt") data("lalonde", package = "cobalt") #Nearest neighbor matching with MatchIt m.out <- MatchIt::matchit(treat ~ age + educ + race + married + nodegree + re74 + re75, data = lalonde) #Checking balance before and after matching: bal.tab(m.out, thresholds = c(m = .1), un = TRUE)
#> Balance Measures #> Type Diff.Un Diff.Adj M.Threshold #> distance Distance 1.7941 0.9739 #> age Contin. -0.3094 0.0718 Balanced, <0.1 #> educ Contin. 0.0550 -0.1290 Not Balanced, >0.1 #> race_black Binary 0.6404 0.3730 Not Balanced, >0.1 #> race_hispan Binary -0.0827 -0.1568 Not Balanced, >0.1 #> race_white Binary -0.5577 -0.2162 Not Balanced, >0.1 #> married Binary -0.3236 -0.0216 Balanced, <0.1 #> nodegree Binary 0.1114 0.0703 Balanced, <0.1 #> re74 Contin. -0.7211 -0.0505 Balanced, <0.1 #> re75 Contin. -0.2903 -0.0257 Balanced, <0.1 #> #> Balance tally for mean differences #> count #> Balanced, <0.1 5 #> Not Balanced, >0.1 4 #> #> Variable with the greatest mean difference #> Variable Diff.Adj M.Threshold #> race_black 0.373 Not Balanced, >0.1 #> #> Sample sizes #> Control Treated #> All 429 185 #> Matched 185 185 #> Unmatched 244 0
#Examining distributional balance with plots: bal.plot(m.out, var.name = "educ") bal.plot(m.out, var.name = "distance", mirror = TRUE, type = "histogram")
#Generating a Love plot to report balance: love.plot(m.out, stats = c("mean.diffs", "variance.ratios"), thresholds = c(m = .1, v = 2), abs = TRUE, binary = "std", var.order = "unadjusted")
Please remember to cite this package when using it to analyze data. For
example, in a manuscript, you could write: “Matching was performed using
the Matching package (Sekhon, 2011), and covariate balance was
assessed using cobalt (Greifer, 2022), both in R (R Core Team, 2022).”
citation("cobalt") to generate a bibliographic reference for the
Bugs appear in
cobalt occasionally, often found by users. Please
report any bugs at https://github.com/ngreifer/cobalt/issues. To
install the latest development version of
cobalt, which may have
removed a bug you’re experiencing, use the following code:
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