The bias-corrected and accelerated (BCa) bootstrap interval


I recently showed how to compute a bootstrap percentile confidence interval in SAS. The percentile interval is a simple "first-order" interval that is formed from quantiles of the bootstrap distribution. However, it has two limitations. First, it does not use the estimate for the original data; it is based only on bootstrap resamples. Second, it does not adjust for skewness in the bootstrap distribution. The so-called bias-corrected and accelerated bootstrap interval (the BCa interval) is a second-order accurate interval that addresses these issues. This article shows how to compute the BCa bootstrap interval in SAS. You can download the complete SAS program that implements the BCa computation.

As in the previous article, let's bootstrap the skewness statistic for the petal widths of 50 randomly selected flowers of the species Iris setosa. The following statements create a data set called SAMPLE and the rename the variable to analyze to 'X', which is analyzed by the rest of the program:

data sample;
   set sashelp.Iris;     /* <== load your data here */
   where species = "Setosa";
   rename PetalWidth=x;  /* <== rename the analyzes variable to 'x' */

BCa interval: The main ideas

The main advantage to the BCa interval is that it corrects for bias and skewness in the distribution of bootstrap estimates. The BCa interval requires that you estimate two parameters. The bias-correction parameter, z0, is related to the proportion of bootstrap estimates that are less than the observed statistic. The acceleration parameter, a, is proportional to the skewness of the bootstrap distribution. You can use the jackknife method to estimate the acceleration parameter.

Assume that the data are independent and identically distributed. Suppose that you have already computed the original statistic and a large number of bootstrap estimates, as shown in the previous article. To compute a BCa confidence interval, you estimate z0 and a and use them to adjust the endpoints of the percentile confidence interval (CI). If the bootstrap distribution is positively skewed, the CI is adjusted to the right. If the bootstrap distribution is negatively skewed, the CI is adjusted to the left.

Estimate the bias correction and acceleration

The mathematical details of the BCa adjustment are provided in Chernick and LaBudde (2011) and Davison and Hinkley (1997). My computations were inspired by Appendix D of Martinez and Martinez (2001). To make the presentation simpler, the program analyzes only univariate data.

The bias correction factor is related to the proportion of bootstrap estimates that are less than the observed statistic. The acceleration parameter is proportional to the skewness of the bootstrap distribution. You can use the jackknife method to estimate the acceleration parameter. The following SAS/IML modules encapsulate the necessary computations. As described in the jackknife article, the function 'JackSampMat' returns a matrix whose columns contain the jackknife samples and the function 'EvalStat' evaluates the statistic on each column of a matrix.

proc iml;
load module=(JackSampMat);             /* load helper function */
/* compute bias-correction factor from the proportion of bootstrap estimates 
   that are less than the observed estimate 
start bootBC(bootEst, Est);
   B = ncol(bootEst)*nrow(bootEst);    /* number of bootstrap samples */
   propLess = sum(bootEst < Est)/B;    /* proportion of replicates less than observed stat */
   z0 = quantile("normal", propLess);  /* bias correction */
   return z0;
/* compute acceleration factor, which is related to the skewness of bootstrap estimates.
   Use jackknife replicates to estimate.
start bootAccel(x);
   M = JackSampMat(x);                 /* each column is jackknife sample */
   jStat = EvalStat(M);                /* row vector of jackknife replicates */
   jackEst = mean(jStat`);             /* jackknife estimate */
   num = sum( (jackEst-jStat)##3 );
   den = sum( (jackEst-jStat)##2 );
   ahat = num / (6*den##(3/2));        /* ahat based on jackknife ==> not random */
   return ahat;

Compute the BCa confidence interval

With those helper functions defined, you can compute the BCa confidence interval. The following SAS/IML statements read the data, generate the bootstrap samples, compute the bootstrap distribution of estimates, and compute the 95% BCa confidence interval:

/* Input: matrix where each column of X is a bootstrap sample. 
   Return a row vector of statistics, one for each column. */
start EvalStat(M); 
   return skewness(M);               /* <== put your computation here */
alpha = 0.05;
B = 5000;                            /* B = number of bootstrap samples */
use sample; read all var "x"; close; /* read univariate data into x */
call randseed(1234567);
Est = EvalStat(x);                   /* 1. compute observed statistic */
s = sample(x, B // nrow(x));         /* 2. generate many bootstrap samples (N x B matrix) */
bStat = T( EvalStat(s) );            /* 3. compute the statistic for each bootstrap sample */
bootEst = mean(bStat);               /* 4. summarize bootstrap distrib, such as mean */
z0 = bootBC(bStat, Est);             /* 5. bias-correction factor */
ahat = bootAccel(x);                 /* 6. ahat = acceleration of std error */
print z0 ahat;
/* 7. adjust quantiles for 100*(1-alpha)% bootstrap BCa interval */
zL = z0 + quantile("normal", alpha/2);    
alpha1 = cdf("normal", z0 + zL / (1-ahat*zL));
zU = z0 + quantile("normal", 1-alpha/2);
alpha2 = cdf("normal", z0 + zU / (1-ahat*zU));
call qntl(CI, bStat, alpha1//alpha2); /* BCa interval */
R = Est || BootEst || CI`;          /* combine results for printing */
print R[c={"Obs" "BootEst" "LowerCL" "UpperCL"} format=8.4 L="95% Bootstrap Bias-Corrected CI (BCa)"];
Bias=corrected and accelerated BCa interval for a dootstrap distribution

The BCa interval is [0.66, 2.29]. For comparison, the bootstrap percentile CI for the bootstrap distribution, which was computed in the previous bootstrap article, is [0.49, 1.96].

Notice that by using the bootBC and bootAccel helper functions, the program is compact and easy to read. One of the advantages of the SAS/IML language is the ease with which you can define user-defined functions that encapsulate sub-computations.

You can visualize the analysis by plotting the bootstrap distribution overlaid with the observed statistic and the 95% BCa confidence interval. Notice that the BCa interval is not symmetric about the bootstrap estimate. Compared to the bootstrap percentile interval (see the previous article), the BCa interval is shifted to the right.

Bootstrap distribution and bias-corrected and accelerated BCa confidence interval

There is another second-order method that is related to the BCa interval. It is called the ABC method and it uses an analytical expression to approximate the endpoints of the BCa interval. See p. 214 of Davison and Hinkley (1997).

In summary, bootstrap computations in the SAS/IML language can be very compact. By writing and re-using helper functions, you can encapsulate some of the tedious calculations into a high-level function, which makes the resulting program easier to read. For univariate data, you can often implement bootstrap computations without writing any loops by using the matrix-vector nature of the SAS/IML language.

If you do not have access to SAS/IML software or if the statistic that you want to bootstrap is produced by a SAS procedure, you can use SAS-supplied macros (%BOOT, %JACK,...) for bootstrapping. The macros include the %BOOTCI macro, which supports the percentile interval, the BCa interval, and others. For further reading, the web page for the macros includes a comparison of the CI methods.


About Author

Rick Wicklin

Distinguished Researcher in Computational Statistics

Rick Wicklin, PhD, is a distinguished researcher in computational statistics at SAS and is a principal developer of SAS/IML software. His areas of expertise include computational statistics, simulation, statistical graphics, and modern methods in statistical data analysis. Rick is author of the books Statistical Programming with SAS/IML Software and Simulating Data with SAS.


  1. Hi Rick,

    Is it possible that the observed statistic is outside of the BCa? I get this for my results, and fear something is wrong.

    • Rick Wicklin

      Yes, that can happen, especially for a nonrobust statistic and outliers in the data. The confidence interval is an interval for the PARAMETER, but there is no reason why the observed statistic has to be close to the parameter. Suppose you have 999 observations that are N(0,1) and one observation that equals 10,000. The observed mean will be about 10, yet most of the bootstrap resamples will give an estimate of the mean that is close to 0. The 95% bootstrap CI will not contain 10, which is the observed mean.

  2. Thank you for answering!

    If the BCa does not cover the observed statistic (say, stat = 0.35), could I still interpret a BCa of [0.40, 0.90] to say that the statistic is significantly different from zero?

    What if also the estimated mean and median of the bootstrap resamples are outside of the BCa?

    All the best!

    • Rick Wicklin

      I suggest that you consult one of the references in the article, which has more details than this blog post. If you are still confused you can ask these questions on a statistical discussion forum such as

      A confidence interval is a statement about the likely value of the underlying parameter, given the data. The interval [0.4, 0.9] indicates that the underlying parameter is not likely to be 0. In general, confidence intervals and significance tests say the same thing: the (1-alpha)% CI does not contain 0 iff the statistic is significantly different from 0 at the alpha significance level. So, yes, I think your statement is correct.

      The bias correction factor is the estimate of the difference between the median of the bootstrap replicates and the observed statistic, in normal units (Martinez and Martinez, 2001, p. 249). Thus I would expect the median to be inside the BCa interval. I don't know about the mean. If neither is inside the CI, your program might be incorrect. Rerun it on N(0,1) data to see if the results make sense.

  3. HI,
    A great article about BCa method.
    I have a question: when to use BCa to correct the result of bootstrap percentile intervals? Thanks!

  4. Thanks for a very clear explanation of the BCa method! I have two questions regarding "the skewness of bootstrap estimates":
    1. Is it possible to use replace the jackknife estimates (from JackSampMat(x)) by the bootstrap estimates (bootEst)?
    2. The expressions for num and den in your code result in different values than standard skewness functions. Isn't skewness computed by using:
    num = mean( (jStat-JackEst)**3)
    den = mean( (jStat-JackEst)**2) ?

    • Rick Wicklin

      1. The jackknife estimate is deterministic. It depends only on the data, not on any random process. I suspect a reason to use the jackknife is to reduce the standard error of the BCa estimate.
      2. The acceleration factor is RELATED to the skewness, but the formula is not the same.

      • Lisandro Colantonio on

        Hi Rick,

        Great job! Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece of code. I have been looking for some similar code in SAS for a while.

        I'm doing a multivariable analysis and using 1,000-iteration bootstrap to calculate 95% CIs. My sample has n=10,000. Therefore, the jackknife procedure to calculate the acceleration takes substantially more time that the bootstrapping it self. Is there a more efficient way to calculate or approximate the acceleration from either the original distribution of x in your example, or from the distribution of bootstrap samples?

        Overall, my analysis takes more than an hour to run for only 1 estimate. Since I need to do jackknife to calculate the acceleration, I may just use jackknife to calculate the 95%CI, and at least I save the time of the bootstrapping.

        Thank you,

        • Rick Wicklin

          I suspect you don't need to use the BCa at all. You do not say what statistic you are computing, but for n=10,000 you can probably use asymptotic formulas (when they exist) for the CIs instead of the bootstrap. If you don't have asymptotic formulas, it could still be the case that the Central Limit Theorem applies and your bootstrap distribution is approximately normal. If so, you don't need the BCa adjustment. When the bias=0 and the acceleration=0, then the BCa interval reduces to the bootstrap percentile interval.

          Lastly, consider drawing a random sample of a smaller size (such as n=2500?) and running the BCa algorithm on the reduced sample. If the BCa and the percentile intervals are close, then you probably don't need the BCa.

  5. Hi Rick, I am karthik and i work in Pharmaceutical industry. we use Bootstrap approach for Invitro dissolution comparison of Dissolution profile.We have SAS JMP software with us, however we donot have much expertise in SAS script. I will be glad if you can help us on this.

  6. Hi Rick,

    I'm running a simulation and a particular sample has propLess = 0 causing the IML to terminate.

    What is the current wisdom for such a situation? I'm inclined to either set it to missing or 1/(B+1), etc.

    • Rick Wicklin

      I'm away from the office right now, but I think that some people use
      (1 + sum(bootEst < Est))/(B+1)
      with the argument that the observed statistic adds one to the numerator and denominator.

  7. Hi Dr. Wicklin, I am working through a problem that requires bootstrapped CIs for a stratified analysis. How would I BCA correct in that context? Would running the bootstrap within a strata and implementing the bca correction from the sas macro be robust? Any insights would be appreciated.

  8. I ran the The bias-corrected and accelerated (BCa) bootstrap interval on PetalLength=x. and the estimate and confidence interval I got was 1.1766 (0.6615 2.2878 ), but when I run proc means I get 2.46 (2.16, 2.76). The disagreement is substantial...can this be correct? I assumed that the BCa interval produced by the program was a CI for mean petal length, but it does not appear to be. What don't I understand? I want a CI for petal length.

    • Rick Wicklin

      Sorry, but I cannot tell what statistic you are computing. In the article, I compute estimates and CI for the SKEWNESS of PetalWidth when Species="Setosa."
      The skewness of PetalLength for Species="Setosa" is 0.106. A BCa interval is [-0.8, 0.9]. PROC MEANS cannot compute the CI for skewness.

      I suggest you post your question and SAS program to the Statistical Procedures community at the SAS Support Communities, which is a much better environment for discussing programming questions.

  9. Thank you very much for the useful Bca program. May I ask if the program can also return the 95% CI of the interquartile range?

      • Thank you very much for your reply Dr. Wicklin. The additional resource you provided was very helpful.

        May also I ask if you happen to know what is the keyword indicating the IQR in the BCa program? E.g. what is a keyword for IQR in the following lines of code in place of "mean"?

        start EvalStat(M);
        return mean(M); /******** specify statistic desired: mean or median ********/

        • Rick Wicklin

          There is not a "keyword", but the following statements will compute the IQR:

          start EvalStat(M); 
             call qntl(q, M, {0.25 0.75}); /* 25th and 75th pctls */
             return ( q[2,] - q[1,] );     /* IQR */
          • Thank you very much for your reply. I was able to compute the 95%CI of the IQR.
            This may be my last question. Do you happen to know the statement to compute the Root Mean Square Error (RMSE) in Bca?

          • Rick Wicklin

            ?? In this article, the EvalStat function is for bootstrapping a univariate statistic. The structure of a program that bootstraps regression statistics is different and there are two common ways to bootstrap regression statistics.

            It is best to ask questions like this on the SAS Support Communities. The answer to your question is

            n = nrow(Y);
            resid = Y - Pred;
            RMSE = sqrt(resid[##,] / n);  /* assuming no missing values */

            but you will need to look at my other bootstrap articles and think about how to apply the BCa analysis to a scalar regression statistic.

  10. Khalil el Hachem on

    Hi Rick,

    I am using the "bootci" function in MatLab to compute the confidence interval around the mean of a dataset. I am using the accelerated bias-corrected percentile method to compute the 95% confidence interval around the mean and I am wondering which distribution does this method assume for the data? I tried looking for this information on Mathworks website but I could not find anything about that.

    Thanks in advance fr your help.

  11. Hi Rick,
    What are your thoughts on using the BCa for estimating CI's (assuming percentile approach) around a rare event proportion? Just general thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Rick Wicklin

      I don't see any advantage to it. Let's say that your sample is size N and there is 1 event, so the observed sample statistic is 1/N. Then the bootstrap distribution if the sample proportion is going to be a discrete distribution with values at 0, 1/N, 2/N, 3/N, 4/N, and possibly 5/N. Not many samples will have 3 or more events, so most of the probability is for 0, 1/N, and 2/N. The percentile CI will probably tell you that the CI is [0, 2/N] or [0, 3/N], and I suspect the BCa will be similar. You can run an example where N=1000 to see the actual numbers.

      The issue isn't really Percentile CI vs BCa. The issue is that for a rare proportion, the bootstrap distribution is discrete because the statistic can only take on a small number of possible values.

  12. Pingback: A simple way to bootstrap linear regression models in SAS - The DO Loop

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