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Correcting Measures of Relationship between Aggregate-Level Variables

Robert M. O'Brien
Sociological Methodology
Vol. 21 (1991), pp. 125-165
DOI: 10.2307/270934
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/270934
Page Count: 41
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Correcting Measures of Relationship between Aggregate-Level Variables
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Abstract

Social scientists often use aggregate-level variables. These variables use the weighted sum of the characteristics of single elements to measure the characteristics of cases. For example, a measure of the formalization of different business organizations (cases) may be based on the mean of the responses of a sample of employees (elements) from each business to a question on the extent to which their work is rule governed. Or a measure of the seriousness of armed robbery, shoplifting, and other crimes (cases) may be based on the mean of the responses of raters (elements). This paper derives estimates of the reliability of aggregate-level variables, describes how to estimate "spurious" covariance components that occur when the same respondents rate an aggregate on more than one variable, and demonstrates how coefficients of relationship can be corrected for both of these sources of error. The methodology is widely applicable and should substantially improve the analysis of aggregate-level variables in social science.

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