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The Relative Incident Rate Ratio Effect Size for Count-Based Impact Evaluations: When an Odds Ratio is Not an Odds Ratio


Area-based prevention studies often produce results that can be represented in a 2-by-2 table of counts. For example, a table may show the crime counts during a 12-month period prior to the intervention compared to a 12-month period during the intervention for a treatment and control area or areas. Studies of this type have used either Cohen’s d or the odds ratio as an effect size index. The former is unsuitable and the latter is a misnomer when used on data of this type. Based on the quasi-Poisson regression model, an incident rate ratio and relative incident rate ratio effect size and associated overdispersion parameter are developed and advocated as the preferred effect size for count-based outcomes in impact evaluations and meta-analyses of such studies.

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Correspondence to David B. Wilson.

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Appendix 1: R Script Demonstrating that Cohen’s d is Affected by Level of Aggregation

figure a

Appendix 2: R Script Demonstrating that Eqs. (7), (9), (15), and (14) Reproduced Results from a Quasi-Poisson Model

figure b

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Wilson, D.B. The Relative Incident Rate Ratio Effect Size for Count-Based Impact Evaluations: When an Odds Ratio is Not an Odds Ratio. J Quant Criminol 38, 323–341 (2022).

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  • Effect size
  • Incident rate ratio
  • Poisson
  • Counts
  • Meta-analysis
  • Cohen’s d
  • Odds ratio