American Sociological Association

Assessing Differences between Nested and Cross-Classified Hierarchical Models

Sociological Methodology, Volume 49, Issue 1, Page 220-257, August 2019.
In multilevel data, cross-classified data structures are common. For example, this occurs when individuals move to different regions in longitudinal data or students go to different secondary schools than their primary school peers. In both cases, the data structure is no longer fully nested. Estimating cross-classified multilevel models is computationally intensive, so researchers have used several shortcuts to decrease run time. We consider how these shortcuts affect parameter estimates. In particular, we compare parameter estimates from fully nested and cross-classified models using a series of Monte Carlo simulations. When the outcome is continuous, we identify systematic differences in estimated standard errors and some differences in the estimated variance components. When the outcome is binary, we also find differences in the estimated coefficients. Accordingly, we caution researchers to avoid fully nested model specifications when cross-classification exists but suggest some limited conditions under which parameter estimates are unlikely to be different.


David Melamed and Mike Vuolo





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