Confirmatory factor analysis of ordinal variables with misspecified models

  • Yang-Wallentin F
  • Jöreskog K
  • Luo H
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Ordinal variables are common in many empirical investigations in the social and behavioral sciences. Researchers often apply the maximum likelihood method to fit structural equation models to ordinal data. This assumes that the observed measures have normal distributions, which is not the case when the variables are ordinal. A better approach is to use polychoric correlations and fit the models using methods such as unweighted least squares (ULS), maximum likelihood (ML), weighted least squares (WLS), or diagonally weighted least squares (DWLS). In this simulation evaluation we study the behavior of these methods in combination with polychoric correlations when the models are misspecified. We also study the effect of model size and number of categories on the parameter estimates, their standard errors, and the common chi-square measures of fit when the models are both correct and misspecified. When used routinely, these methods give consistent parameter estimates but ULS, ML, and DWLS give incorrect standard errors. Correct standard errors can be obtained for these methods by robustification using an estimate of the asymptotic covariance matrix W of the polychoric correlations. When used in this way the methods are here called RULS, RML, and RDWLS.

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  • Fan Yang-Wallentin

  • Karl G. Jöreskog

  • Hao Luo

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