[R] Factor Analysis?

John Fox jfox at mcmaster.ca
Thu Feb 3 16:00:14 CET 2000

Dear John,

At 10:01 AM 2/3/2000 +1100, you wrote:
>One could easily get the impression that these sorts of use are almost
>the only ways in which factor analysis that goes beyond principal
>components kinds of uses, and structural equation modelling, are used.
>It is very hard to find examples of the use of these techniques where
>there is some genuine and plausible attempt at model validation.  It
>is also very hard to devise and implement good diagnostic statistics
>and plots.  Such concerns are well articulated in David Freedman's
>paper (with extensive following discussion) "As Others See Us; A Case
>Study in Path Analysis", in J. Educ. Statistics 12: 101-223

I think that Freedman's point is more general, and extends, for example, to regression analysis, even supported by good diagnostics -- he argues generally against drawing causal conclusions from nonexperimental data. Although many of his points are well taken, I find his argument extreme.

>I'd very much like to learn of published examples of the use of
>these methods which do address these concerns.  If these can be
>found, they would be good references to include when and if these
>techniques are implemented.

I don't generally think of myself as an advocate of either factor analysis or of structural-equation models, but I recognize that the better practitioners of these methods pay some attention to the descriptive adequacy of their models. Take a look, for example, at Bollen, Structural Equations With Latent Variables (Wiley, 1989) and Bollen and Long, eds., Testing Structural Equation Models (Sage, 1993).


| John Fox                          jfox at McMaster.ca |
| Department of Sociology        McMaster University |
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