Finite Population Correction for Two-Level Hierarchical Linear Models


The research literature has paid little attention to the issue of finite population at a higher level in hierarchical linear modeling. In this article, we propose a method to obtain finite-population-adjusted standard errors of Level-1 and Level-2 fixed effects in 2-level hierarchical linear models. When the finite population at Level-2 is incorrectly assumed as being infinite, the standard errors of the fixed effects are overestimated, resulting in lower statistical power and wider confidence intervals. The impact of ignoring finite population correction is illustrated by using both a real data example and a simulation study with a random intercept model and a random slope model. Simulation results indicated that the bias in the unadjusted fixed-effect standard errors was substantial when the Level-2 sample size exceeded 10% of the Level-2 population size; the bias increased with a larger intraclass correlation, a larger number of clusters, and a larger average cluster size. We also found that the proposed adjustment produced unbiased standard errors, particularly when the number of clusters was at least 30 and the average cluster size was at least 10. We encourage researchers to consider the characteristics of the target population for their studies and adjust for finite population when appropriate.

In Psychological Methods
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