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Ecological variables, ecological studies, and multilevel studies in public health research 

Ecological variables, ecological studies, and multilevel studies in public health research
Chapter:
Ecological variables, ecological studies, and multilevel studies in public health research
Author(s):

Ana V. Diez Roux

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199661756.003.0104
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date: 17 September 2019

This chapter reviews the use of ecologic variables, ecologic studies, and multilevel studies in epidemiology and public health. It begins with a discussion of the ecologic fallacy and the sources of the ecologic fallacy, placing it in the context of other fallacies related to the presence of multiple levels of organization. Other fallacies including the atomistic fallacy, the psychologistic(or individualistic) fallacy and the sociologistic fallacy are also reviewed. The chapter then discusses the uses of ecologic or group-level variables in epidemiology, distinguishing the use of these variables as proxies for individual-level data and as measures of true group-level constructs. The final sections contrast the advantages and disadvantages of individual-level studies, ecologic studies, and multilevel studies. Multilevel analysis is briefly reviewed. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the challenges inherent in multilevel studies and multilevel analysis. The importance of conceptualizing the multiple levels of organization relevant to a particular research question is emphasized throughout the chapter.

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