The Human Freedom Index is a report that attempts to summarize the idea of “freedom” through a bunch of different variables for many countries around the globe. It serves as a rough objective measure for the relationships between the different types of freedom - whether it’s political, religious, economical or personal freedom - and other social and economic circumstances. The Human Freedom Index is an annually co-published report by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute, and the Liberales Institut at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

In this lab, you’ll be analysing data from the Human Freedom Index reports. Your aim will be to summarize a few of the relationships within the data both graphically and numerically in order to find which variables can help tell a story about freedom.

Getting Started

Load packages

In this lab, you will explore and visualize the data using the tidyverse suite of packages. You will also use the statsr package to select a regression line that minimizes the sum of squared residuals and the broom package to tidy regression output. The data can be found in the openintro package, a companion package for OpenIntro resources.

Let’s load the packages.


Creating a reproducible lab report

To create your new lab report, in RStudio, go to New File -> R Markdown… Then, choose From Template and then choose Lab Report for OpenIntro Statistics Labs from the list of templates.

The data

The data we’re working with is in the openintro package and it’s called hfi, short for Human Freedom Index.

  1. What are the dimensions of the dataset? What does each row represent?

  2. The dataset spans a lot of years, but we are only interested in data from year 2016. Filter the data hfi data frame for year 2016, select the six variables, and assign the result to a data frame named hfi_2016.

  3. What type of plot would you use to display the relationship between the personal freedom score, pf_score, and pf_expression_control? Plot this relationship using the variable pf_expression_control as the predictor. Does the relationship look linear? If you knew a country’s pf_expression_control, or its score out of 10, with 0 being the most, of political pressures and controls on media content, would you be comfortable using a linear model to predict the personal freedom score?

If the relationship looks linear, we can quantify the strength of the relationship with the correlation coefficient.

hfi_2016 %>%
  summarise(cor(pf_expression_control, pf_score))

Sum of squared residuals

In this section, you will use an interactive function to investigate what we mean by “sum of squared residuals”. You will need to run this function in your console, not in your markdown document. Running the function also requires that the hfi dataset is loaded in your environment. You will also need to make sure the Plots tab in the lower right-hand corner has enough space to make a plot.

Think back to the way that we described the distribution of a single variable. Recall that we discussed characteristics such as center, spread, and shape. It’s also useful to be able to describe the relationship of two numerical variables, such as pf_expression_control and pf_score above.

  1. Looking at your plot from the previous exercise, describe the relationship between these two variables. Make sure to discuss the form, direction, and strength of the relationship as well as any unusual observations.

Just as you’ve used the mean and standard deviation to summarize a single variable, you can summarize the relationship between these two variables by finding the line that best follows their association. Use the following interactive function to select the line that you think does the best job of going through the cloud of points.

plot_ss(x = pf_expression_control, y = pf_score, data = hfi_2016)

After running this command, you’ll be prompted to click two points on the plot to define a line. Once you’ve done that, the line you specified will be shown in black and the residuals in blue.

If your plot is appearing below your code chunk and won’t let you select points to make a line, take the following steps:

  • Go to the Tools bar at the top of RStudio
  • Click on “Global Options…”
  • Click on the “R Markdown pane” (on the left)
  • Uncheck the box that says “Show output inline for all R Markdown documents”

Recall that the residuals are the difference between the observed values and the values predicted by the line:

\[ e_i = y_i - \hat{y}_i \]

The most common way to do linear regression is to select the line that minimizes the sum of squared residuals. To visualize the squared residuals, you can rerun the plot command and add the argument showSquares = TRUE.

plot_ss(x = pf_expression_control, y = pf_score, data = hfi_2016, showSquares = TRUE)

Note that the output from the plot_ss function provides you with the slope and intercept of your line as well as the sum of squares.

  1. Using plot_ss, choose a line that does a good job of minimizing the sum of squares. Run the function several times. What was the smallest sum of squares that you got? How does it compare to your neighbours?

The linear model

It is rather cumbersome to try to get the correct least squares line, i.e. the line that minimizes the sum of squared residuals, through trial and error. Instead, you can use the lm function in R to fit the linear model (a.k.a. regression line).

m1 <- lm(pf_score ~ pf_expression_control, data = hfi_2016)

The first argument in the function lm() is a formula that takes the form y ~ x. Here it can be read that we want to make a linear model of pf_score as a function of pf_expression_control. The second argument specifies that R should look in the hfi data frame to find the two variables.

Note: Piping will not work here, as the data frame is not the first argument!

The output of lm() is an object that contains all of the information we need about the linear model that was just fit. We can access this information using the tidy() function.


Let’s consider this output piece by piece. First, the formula used to describe the model is shown at the top, in what’s displayed as the “Call”. After the formula you find the five-number summary of the residuals. The “Coefficients” table shown next is key; its first column displays the linear model’s y-intercept and the coefficient of pf_expression_control. With this table, we can write down the least squares regression line for the linear model:

\[ \hat{y} = 4.28 + 0.542 \times pf\_expression\_control \]

This equation tells us two things:

  • For countries with a pf_expression_control of 0 (those with the largest amount of political pressure on media content), we expect their mean personal freedom score to be 4.28.
  • For every 1 unit increase in pf_expression_control, we expect a country’s mean personal freedom score to increase 0.542 units.

We can assess model fit using \(R^2\), the proportion of variability in the response variable that is explained by the explanatory variable. We use the glance() function to access this information.


For this model, 71.4% of the variability in pf_score is explained by pf_expression_control.

  1. Fit a new model that uses pf_expression_control to predict hf_score, or the total human freedom score. Using the estimates from the R output, write the equation of the regression line. What does the slope tell us in the context of the relationship between human freedom and the amount of political pressure on media content?

Prediction and prediction errors

Let’s create a scatterplot with the least squares line for m1 laid on top.

ggplot(data = hfi_2016, aes(x = pf_expression_control, y = pf_score)) +
  geom_point() +
  geom_smooth(method = "lm", se = FALSE)

Here, we are literally adding a layer on top of our plot. geom_smooth creates the line by fitting a linear model. It can also show us the standard error se associated with our line, but we’ll suppress that for now.

This line can be used to predict \(y\) at any value of \(x\). When predictions are made for values of \(x\) that are beyond the range of the observed data, it is referred to as extrapolation and is not usually recommended. However, predictions made within the range of the data are more reliable. They’re also used to compute the residuals.

  1. If someone saw the least squares regression line and not the actual data, how would they predict a country’s personal freedom school for one with a 3 rating for pf_expression_control? Is this an overestimate or an underestimate, and by how much? In other words, what is the residual for this prediction?

Model diagnostics

To assess whether the linear model is reliable, we need to check for (1) linearity, (2) nearly normal residuals, and (3) constant variability.

In order to do these checks we need access to the fitted (predicted) values and the residuals. We can use the augment() function to calculate these.

m1_aug <- augment(m1)

Linearity: You already checked if the relationship between pf_score and pf_expression_control is linear using a scatterplot. We should also verify this condition with a plot of the residuals vs. fitted (predicted) values.

ggplot(data = m1_aug, aes(x = .fitted, y = .resid)) +
  geom_point() +
  geom_hline(yintercept = 0, linetype = "dashed", color = "red") +
  xlab("Fitted values") +

Notice here that m1 can also serve as a data set because stored within it are the fitted values (\(\hat{y}\)) and the residuals. Also note that we’re getting fancy with the code here. After creating the scatterplot on the first layer (first line of code), we overlay a red horizontal dashed line at \(y = 0\) (to help us check whether the residuals are distributed around 0), and we also rename the axis labels to be more informative.

  1. Is there any apparent pattern in the residuals plot? What does this indicate about the linearity of the relationship between the two variables?

Nearly normal residuals: To check this condition, we can look at a histogram of the residuals.

ggplot(data = m1_aug, aes(x = .resid)) +
  geom_histogram(binwidth = 0.25) +
  1. Based on the histogram, does the nearly normal residuals condition appear to be violated? Why or why not?

Constant variability:

  1. Based on the residuals vs. fitted plot, does the constant variability condition appear to be violated? Why or why not?

More Practice

  • Choose another variable that you think would strongly correlate with pf_score. Produce a scatterplot of the two variables and fit a linear model. At a glance, does there seem to be a linear relationship?

  • How does this relationship compare to the relationship between pf_score and pf_expression_control? Use the \(R^2\) values from the two model summaries to compare. Does your independent variable seem to predict pf_score better? Why or why not?

  • Check the model diagnostics using appropriate visualisations and evaluate if the model conditions have been met.

  • Pick another pair of variables of interest and visualise the relationship between them. Do you find the relationship surprising or is it what you expected. Discuss why you were interested in these variables and why you were/were not surprised by the relationship you observed.

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