Estimating Capabilities with Structural Equation Models: How Well are We Doing in a 'Real' World?
22 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2014
Date Written: June 10, 2014
Measuring capabilities is a major challenge for the operationalization of the capability approach. Structural equation models (SEM) are being increasingly used as one possible methodology for estimating capabilities, but a certain skepticism remains about their appropriateness. In this paper, we perform a unique simulation experiment for testing the validity of such estimators. Using an agent-based modeling tool, we simulate a 'real' life scenario with individuals of heterogeneous characteristics and behaviors, having different capability sets, and making different decisions. We then run a SEM (MIMIC) model on the data generated in this simulated world to estimate the individual capabilities. Our results support the idea that SEM can coherently estimate the true capabilities. We find that using the linear predictor from the structural part of the SEM provides better results than using the 'classical' factor scores based on the full model.
Keywords: latent variable model, MIMIC, SEM, simulation, capability approach
JEL Classification: C10, C15, D63, I00, I20
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