Alternatives to multilevel modeling for the analysis of clustered data


Multilevel modeling has grown in use over the years as a way to deal with the nonindependent nature of observations found in clustered data. However, other alternatives to multilevel modeling are available that can account for observations nested within clusters, including the use of Taylor series linearization for variance estimation, the design effect adjusted standard errors approach, and fixed effects modeling. Using 1,000 replications of 12 conditions with varied Level 1 and Level 2 sample sizes, the author compared parameter estimates, standard errors, and statistical significance using various alternative procedures. Results indicate that several acceptable procedures can be used in lieu of or together with multilevel modeling, depending on the type of research question asked and the number of clusters under investigation. Guidelines for applied researchers are discussed.

In Journal of Experimental Education