IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

On Ecological Fallacy and Assessment Errors Stemming From Misguided Variable Selection: Investigating the Effect of Data Aggregation on the Outcome of Epidemiological Study


  • Boris A. Portnov


  • Jonathan Dubnov


  • Micha Barchana



In behavioral studies, ecological fallacy is a wrong assumption about an individual based on aggregate data for a group. In the present study, the validity of this assumption was tested using both individual estimates of exposure to air pollution and aggregate air pollution data estimated for 1,492 schoolchildren living in the in vicinity of a major coal-fired power station in the Hadera sub-district of Israel. In 1996 and 1999, the children underwent subsequent pulmonary function (PF) tests, and their parents completed a detailed questionnaire on their health status, and housing conditions. The association between children’s PF development and their long-term exposure to air pollution was then investigated in two phases. During the first phase, the average rates of PF change observed in small statistical areas in which the children reside were compared with average levels of air pollution detected in these areas. During the second phase of the analysis, an individual pollution estimate was calculated for each child covered by the survey, using a "spatial join" tool in ArcGIS. While the analysis of aggregate data showed no significant differences in the PF development among the schoolchildren surveyed, the comparison of individual pollution estimates with the results of PF tests detected a significant negative association between changes in PF results and the estimated level of air pollution. As argued, these differences are attributed to the fact that average exposure levels are likely to cause a misclassification bias of individual exposure, as further demonstrated in the study using pattern detection techniques of spatial analysis (local Moran's I and Gettis-Ord statistic). The implications of the results of the analysis for geographical and epidemiological studies are discussed, and recommendations for public health policy are formulated.

Suggested Citation

  • Boris A. Portnov & Jonathan Dubnov & Micha Barchana, 2006. "On Ecological Fallacy and Assessment Errors Stemming From Misguided Variable Selection: Investigating the Effect of Data Aggregation on the Outcome of Epidemiological Study," ERSA conference papers ersa06p18, European Regional Science Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa06p18

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Glaeser, Edward L & Hedi D. Kallal & Jose A. Scheinkman & Andrei Shleifer, 1992. "Growth in Cities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1126-1152, December.
      • Edward L. Glaeser & Hedi D. Kallal & Jose A. Scheinkman & Andrei Shleifer, 1991. "Growth in Cities," NBER Working Papers 3787, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Kallal, Hedi D. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Shleifer, Andrei, 1992. "Growth in Cities," Scholarly Articles 3451309, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa06p18. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Gunther Maier). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.