A1 Journal article – refereed

Accounting for measurement error in human life history trade-offs using structural equation modeling

List of Authors: Samuli Helle

Publisher: WILEY

Publication year: 2018

Journal: American Journal of Human Biology


Journal acronym: AM J HUM BIOL

Volume number: 30

Issue number: 2

Number of pages: 9

ISSN: 1042-0533

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.23075


Objectives: Revealing causal effects from correlative data is very challenging and a contemporary problem in human life history research owing to the lack of experimental approach. Problems with causal inference arising from measurement error in independent variables, whether related either to inaccurate measurement technique or validity of measurements, seem not well-known in this field. The aim of this study is to show how structural equation modeling (SEM) with latent variables can be applied to account for measurement error in independent variables when the researcher has recorded several indicators of a hypothesized latent construct.

Methods: As a simple example of this approach, measurement error in lifetime allocation of resources to reproduction in Finnish preindustrial women is modelled in the context of the survival cost of reproduction. In humans, lifetime energetic resources allocated in reproduction are almost impossible to quantify with precision and, thus, typically used measures of lifetime reproductive effort (e.g., lifetime reproductive success and parity) are likely to be plagued by measurement error. These results are contrasted with those obtained from a traditional regression approach where the single best proxy of lifetime reproductive effort available in the data is used for inference.ResultsAs expected, the inability to account for measurement error in women's lifetime reproductive effort resulted in the underestimation of its underlying effect size on post-reproductive survival.

Conclusions: This article emphasizes the advantages that the SEM framework can provide in handling measurement error via multiple-indicator latent variables in human life history studies.

Last updated on 2021-24-06 at 11:05