Relative change and difference

Comparisons in quantitative sciences / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In any quantitative science, the terms relative change and relative difference are used to compare two quantities while taking into account the "sizes" of the things being compared, i.e. dividing by a standard or reference or starting value. The comparison is expressed as a ratio and is a unitless number. By multiplying these ratios by 100 they can be expressed as percentages so the terms percentage change, percent(age) difference, or relative percentage difference are also commonly used. The terms "change" and "difference" are used interchangeably.[1] Relative change is often used as a quantitative indicator of quality assurance and quality control for repeated measurements where the outcomes are expected to be the same. A special case of percent change (relative change expressed as a percentage) called percent error occurs in measuring situations where the reference value is the accepted or actual value (perhaps theoretically determined) and the value being compared to it is experimentally determined (by measurement).

The relative change formula is not well-behaved under many conditions and various alternative formulas, called indicators of relative difference, have been proposed in the literature. Several authors have found log change and log points to be satisfactory indicators, but these have not seen widespread use.