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How do I obtain the standard deviation from the standard error of the mean (s.e.m.)?

$$\frac{\mbox{The standard deviation}}{\sqrt{\mbox{sample size}}}$$= standard error of the mean


standard deviation = $$\sqrt{\mbox{sample size}} \mbox{multiplied by the standard error of the mean}$$

It follows from this (e.g. p.218 of Babbie) that the standard error fo the mean decreases with sample size, N.

This follows since: The variance of the mean = 1/N x variance of the response = 1/N x The variance of N randomly sampled responses from a parent population = 1/ N2 x (Nsigma2)

= sigma2/N where sigma2 is the (unobserved true) variance of the (parent population of the) response. Since this involves a term 1/N the variance (or its square root = standard error) of the mean decreases with sample size.

The mean (= to the midpoint or median in a Normal distribution) on the other hand is not proportional to sample size so is uneffected by N. One can see this easily by considering an example: suppose we have a sample of size 3 of a responses = 1 2 3 then the mean is 2. Suppose I take a sample of size 7 say of the same response and get values of 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 then the mean = 2 there since it is symmetric about the (hypothesised true) mean of 2 (which follows from sampling from a response following a normal distribution).

So it follows that the one sample z-test statistic = mean / s.e.(mean) will increase with increasing sample size because the mean stays the same and the s.e.(mean) decreases.


Babbie, E. (2008). The Basics of Social Research. Fourth Edition. Thomson Wadsworth: Belmont.CA.