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Measuring Collective Efficacy: A Multi-level Measurement Model for Nested Data

Ross L Matsueda

February 2015 CSSS Working Paper #151



This article specifies a multi-level measurement model for survey response when data are nested. The model includes a test-retest model of reliability, a confirmatory factor model of inter-item reliability with item-specific bias effects, an individual-level model of the biasing effects due to respondent characteristics, and a neighborhood-level model of construct validity. We apply this model to measuring informal social control within collective efficacy theory. Using 3,260 respondents nested within 123 Seattle neighborhoods, we find the measures show reasonable test-retest and inter-item reliability. We find that respondents' assessments of whether their neighbors would intervene in specific child deviant acts are related to whether they have observed such acts in the past, which is consistent with a cognitive model of survey response. When proper measurement models are not used, the effects of some neighborhood covariates on informal control are biased upward and the effect of informal control on violence is biased downward.

Keywords: structural equation model, measurement model, nested data, ordinal indicators, multi-level model, collective efficacy, informal social control