Do missing values exist? Incomplete data handling in cross-national longitudinal studies by means of continuous time modeling
Number of pages
SourceQuality & Quantity, 48, 6, (2014), pp. 3271-3288
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI OGG
Quality & Quantity
In cross-national longitudinal studies it is often impossible to administer the same measurement instruments at the same occasions to all sample units in all participating countries. This quickly results in large quantities of missing data, due to (a) missing measurement instruments in some countries, (b) missing assessment waves within or across countries, (c) missing data for individual sample units. As compared to cross-sectional studies, the problem of missing values is further aggravated by the fact that missing values are always associated with different time intervals between repeated observations. In the past, this has often been dealt with by the use of phantom-variables, but this approach is limited to simple designs with few missing value patters. In the present paper we propose a new way to think of, and deal with, missing values in longitudinal studies. Instead of conceiving of a longitudinal study as a study with discrete time points of which some are missing, we propose to conceive of a longitudinal study as a way to measure an underlying process that develops continuously over time, but is only observed at some selected discrete time points. This transforms the problem of missing values into a problem of unequal time intervals. After a quick introduction to the basic idea of continuous time modeling, we demonstrate how this approach provides a straightforward solution to missing measurement instruments in some countries, missing assessment waves within or across countries, and missing data for individual sample units.
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