# Statistical Significance – Can Dropping an Insignificant Factor Worsen the Model?

aicfeature selectionstatistical significance

I constructed a negative binomial model for examining the relationship of 1 count variable="carid_den" on another "juv_cneb_den" (with an offset="Area_towed"), along with a factor of location ="Zone".

A summary command on my full model indicates all levels of the factor are statistically insignificant (>0.05). Upon dropping this factor, however, I get a slightly higher AIC value which I think means the factor somehow made the model better. Why would the AIC value drop if the factor wasn't important? Aren't lower AIC values an indication of a better model? Is there an intuitive explanation?

My data:

    > head(df)
Zone TOTAL juv_cneb_count Area_towed
1   Whipray     2              0   383.9854
2      West    38              0   382.2256
3 Crocodile    25              0   408.3697
4    Rankin     2              0   422.1000
5    Rankin     3              0   165.5196
6      West     6              1   266.7000

> summary(nb_full)

Call:
glm.nb(formula = juv_cneb_count ~ TOTAL + Zone + offset(log(Area_towed)),
data = dat, init.theta = 0.2371440904, link = log)

Deviance Residuals:
Min       1Q   Median       3Q      Max
-1.3378  -0.7787  -0.6540   0.0000   4.0603

Coefficients:
Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)
(Intercept) -3.930e+01  1.575e+06   0.000   1.0000
TOTAL        1.946e-03  9.294e-04   2.094   0.0363 *
ZoneRankin   3.220e+01  1.575e+06   0.000   1.0000
ZoneWhipray  3.119e+01  1.575e+06   0.000   1.0000
---
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

(Dispersion parameter for Negative Binomial(0.2371) family taken to be 1)

Null deviance: 278.96  on 449  degrees of freedom
Residual deviance: 241.60  on 445  degrees of freedom
AIC: 751.89

Number of Fisher Scoring iterations: 1

Theta:  0.2371
Std. Err.:  0.0407

2 x log-likelihood:  -739.8900

> summary(base)

Call:
glm.nb(formula = juv_cneb_count ~ TOTAL + offset(log(Area_towed)),
data = dat, init.theta = 0.1965321662, link = log)

Deviance Residuals:
Min       1Q   Median       3Q      Max
-1.4967  -0.6980  -0.6810  -0.5667   4.1964

Coefficients:
Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)
(Intercept) -6.776742   0.135157 -50.140  < 2e-16 ***
TOTAL        0.003362   0.000984   3.416 0.000634 ***
---
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

(Dispersion parameter for Negative Binomial(0.1965) family taken to be 1)

Null deviance: 252.73  on 449  degrees of freedom
Residual deviance: 246.63  on 448  degrees of freedom
AIC: 775.16

Number of Fisher Scoring iterations: 1

Theta:  0.1965
Std. Err.:  0.0329

2 x log-likelihood:  -769.1590