Measurement error models with uncertainty about the error variance

D.L. Oberski, A. Satorra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


It is well known that measurement error in observable variables induces bias in estimates in standard regression analysis and that structural equation models are a typical solution to this problem. Often, multiple indicator equations are subsumed as part of the structural equation model, allowing for consistent estimation of the relevant regression parameters. In many instances, however, embedding the measurement model into structural equation models is not possible because the model would not be identified. To correct for measurement error one has no other recourse than to provide the exact values of the variances of the measurement error terms of the model, although in practice such variances cannot be ascertained exactly, but only estimated from an independent study. The usual approach so far has been to treat the estimated values of error variances as if they were known exact population values in the subsequent structural equation modeling (SEM) analysis. In this article we show that fixing measurement error variance estimates as if they were true values can make the reported standard errors of the structural parameters of the model smaller than they should be. Inferences about the parameters of interest will be incorrect if the estimated nature of the variances is not taken into account. For general SEM, we derive an explicit expression that provides the terms to be added to the standard errors provided by the standard SEM software that treats the estimated variances as exact population values. Interestingly, we find there is a differential impact of the corrections to be added to the standard errors depending on which parameter of the model is estimated. The theoretical results are illustrated with simulations and also with empirical data on a typical SEM model.
Keywords: correction for measurement error, error variance, fixed parameters, measurement error, reliability, standard errors, standard error of reliability, structural equation modeling
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-428
JournalStructural Equation Modeling
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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