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In descriptive statistics, the interquartile range (IQR), also called the midspread or middle 50%, or technically H-spread, is a measure of statistical dispersion, being equal to the difference between 75th and 25th percentiles, or between upper and lower quartiles, IQR = Q3 − Q1. In other words, the IQR is the 1st quartile subtracted from the 3rd quartile; these quartiles can be clearly seen on a box plot on the data. It is a trimmed estimator, defined as the 25% trimmed range, and is the most significant basic robust measure of scale.
The interquartile range (IQR) is a measure of variability, based on dividing a data set into quartiles. Quartiles divide a rank-ordered data set into four equal parts. The values that separate parts are called the first, second, and third quartiles; and they are denoted by Q1, Q2, and Q3, respectively.
Quartiles are calculated recursively, by using median.
If the number of entries is an even number 2n, then the first quartile Q1 is defined as
- first quartile Q1 = median of the n smallest entries
and the third quartile Q3 = median of the n largest entries
If the number of entries is an odd number 2n+1, then the first quartile Q1 is defined as
- first quartile Q1 = median of the n+1 smallest entries
and the third quartile Q3 = median of the n+1 largest entries
The second quartile Q2 is the same as the ordinary median.
Data set in a table
The following table has 13 rows, and follows the rules for the odd number of entries.
(median of whole table)
(median of upper half, from row 1 to7)
(median of lower half, from row 7 to 13)
For the data in this table the interquartile range is IQR = Q3 − Q1 = 119 - 31 = 88.
Data set in a plain-text box plot
+-----+-+ o * |-------| | |---| +-----+-+ +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+ number line 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
For the data set in this box plot:
- lower (first) quartile Q1 = 7
- median (second quartile) Q2 = 8.5
- upper (third) quartile Q3 = 9
- interquartile range, IQR = Q3 − Q1 = 2
The interquartile range of a continuous distribution can be calculated by integrating the probability density function (which yields the cumulative distribution function—any other means of calculating the CDF will also work). The lower quartile, Q1, is a number such that integral of the PDF from -∞ to Q1 equals 0.25, while the upper quartile, Q3, is such a number that the integral from -∞ to Q3 equals 0.75; in terms of the CDF, the quartiles can be defined as follows:
where CDF−1 is the quantile function.
The interquartile range and median of some common distributions are shown below
|Normal||μ||2 Φ−1(0.75)σ ≈ 1.349σ ≈ (27/20)σ|
|Laplace||μ||2b ln(2) ≈ 1.386b|
Interquartile range test for normality of distribution
The IQR, mean, and standard deviation of a population P can be used in a simple test of whether or not P is normally distributed, or Gaussian. If P is normally distributed, then the standard score of the first quartile, z1, is -0.67, and the standard score of the third quartile, z3, is +0.67. Given mean = X and standard deviation = σ for P, if P is normally distributed, the first quartile
and the third quartile
If the actual values of the first or third quartiles differ substantially[clarification needed] from the calculated values, P is not normally distributed. However, a normal distribution can be trivially perturbed to maintain its Q1 and Q2 std. scores at 0.67 and -0.67 and not be normally distributed (so the above test would produce a false positive). A better test of normality, such as Q-Q plot would be indicated here.
The interquartile range is often used to find outliers in data. Outliers here are defined as observations that fall below Q1 − 1.5 IQR or above Q3 + 1.5 IQR. In a boxplot, the highest and lowest occurring value within this limit are indicated by whiskers of the box (frequently with an additional bar at the end of the whisker) and any outliers as individual points.
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