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The problematic estimation of "imitation effects" in multilevel models


  • Øystein Kravdal

    (Universitetet i Oslo)


It seems plausible that a person’s demographic behaviour may be influenced by that among other people in the community, for example because of an inclination to imitate. When estimating multilevel models from clustered individual data, some investigators might perhaps feel tempted to try to capture this effect by simply including on the right-hand side the average of the dependent variable, constructed by aggregation within the clusters. However, such modelling must be avoided. According to simulation experiments based on real fertility data from India, the estimated effect of this obviously endogenous variable can be very different from the true effect. Also the other community effect estimates can be strongly biased. An "imitation effect" can only be estimated under very special assumptions that in practice will be hard to defend.

Suggested Citation

  • Øystein Kravdal, 2003. "The problematic estimation of "imitation effects" in multilevel models," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 9(2), pages 25-40, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:demres:v:9:y:2003:i:2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Charles F. Manski, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 531-542.
    2. Øystein Kravdal, 2002. "Education and fertility in sub-Saharan africa: Individual and community effects," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 39(2), pages 233-250, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ankita Mishra & Jaai Parasnis, 2014. "An Empirical Investigation of Peer effects on Fertility Preferences," Monash Economics Working Papers 34-14, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    2. repec:spr:soinre:v:134:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1431-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Øystein Kravdal & Ivy Kodzi, 2011. "Children's stunting in sub-Saharan Africa: Is there an externality effect of high fertility?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 25(18), pages 565-594, September.
    4. Melinda Mills & Nicoletta Balbo, 2011. "The influence of the family network on the realisation of fertility intentions," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 9(1), pages 179-206.

    More about this item


    bias; endogenous; estimation; imitation effect; models; multilevel model; simulation; survey;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General


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