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ManfromMiddletown:

There's a whole mess of fight on methodology here.

They use factor analysis. You can take any number of survey questions and get out a collection of "synthetic" factors which "explain" a large fraction of the variance in survey answers. You then try to assign a meaning to the factors, if you can come up with one, based on the weights each survey question has in each factor.

As a methodology it's just a dimension reduction technique. On whether you can then run with the factors and make inferences from them, this was thoroughly debunked by Stephen Jay Gould (a self-confessed fan of factor analysis as a data reduction technique) in connection with single-factor models of human intelligence (IQ) in The Mismeasure of Man.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 19th, 2009 at 04:15:38 PM EST
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