Project Description

Analyzing the Unobservable: Structural Equation Modeling in Comparative Social Research

This module takes place online.

Module content

  • Learn how to use multi-group confirmatory factor analysis of latent variables such as xenophobia or social trust for establishing comparability of measures
  • Work with multi-group structural equation models for analysing research questions
  • ProgrammeThe course is taught in English (4 ECTS)
  • Requirements – Bachelor’s and Master’s students in the Social Sciences (e.g. Sociology, Anthropology). Open for other disciplines
  • Programme fee – EUR 500.00

  • Application deadline – n/a

If you are a student from the University of Massachusetts system, the University of Wisconsin system, and participating universities in Queensland you will participate as exchange students and will not pay fees directly to Frankfurt Digital Summer School. Please contact your study abroad advisor for more information on how and when to apply.

Course description

Sociological research is often interested in phenomena that cannot be directly measured, like xenophobia, meritocratic values or social trust. Such latent variables can be measured with the help of confirmatory factor analysis. Their relationships can be analyzed with structural equation models.

In the context of comparative research, we must make sure that our measurement instruments for latent variables are comparable between countries and cultures: Is our measurement instrument for xenophobia comparable across countries? Such questions can be answered with multi-group confirmatory factor analysis, which will be the first focus of the course. Once comparability of measures is established, we can start to ask substantial questions: Is the relationship between xenophobia and social trust the same in every culture? Such questions can be analyzed with multi-group structural equation models, which will be a second focus. Throughout the course, we will work with the statistical software Stata and data from the European Social Survey.

This module is part of part of the course Cross-national Comparative Research in the Social Sciences. It consists of two modules on statistical techniques that are useful in cross-national comparative research (and any other comparative research): Multilevel analysis and multi-group structural equation modeling. The two modules make use of the same software and data, which allows students to easily integrate the knowledge from both courses into their own substantive research projects. However, both courses also stand on their own and is it not necessary to visit both courses.

The course comprises 28 contact hours (8*3.5 hours). Upon successful completion, 4 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) points will be awarded for the module. A single ECTS point is defined as the equivalent of 25 to 30 hours of student workload. This includes class hours, additional preparations for class activities, readings, assignments as well as final assessments.

Attendance: Participants have to attend at least 80 % of the classes.


Students should have basic statistical knowledge and high interest in quantitative research.


Prof. Dr. Alexander Schmidt-Catran

Prof. Dr. Alexander Schmidt-Catran is professor of sociology with a focus on methods for quantitative empirical research. He teaches statistics at the BA, MA and PhD-level. He is the author of a textbook on the analysis of panel data and author of several journal articles on multilevel models. His substantive research focusses on attitudes toward migration and the welfare state. He published papers in the American Sociological Review, the European Sociological ReviewSociological Methodology and Sociological Methods & Research.

Dr. Christian Czymara

Dr. Christian Czymara is a researcher and lecturer. His work focuses on immigration, ethnic conflict, political communication, public opinion from a quantitative perspective. He teaches quantitative methods and research trainings on the MA level. He published papers on attitudes toward immigrants in the European Sociological Review and the Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie.

Zsófia Ignácz, PhD

Zsófia S. Ignácz is a lecturer and researcher. Her research focuses on topics related to social justice perception and European integration. She teaches quantitative methods at the BA and MA level. Her most recent publications include European Solidarity in Times of Crisis (2019, Routledge, with J. Gerhards, H. Lengfeld, F. Kley, and M. Priem), The Remains of the Socialist Legacy: The Influence of Socialist Socialization on Attitudes toward Income Inequality (Societies, 2018); Social Cohesion and Its Correlates (Comparative Sociology, 2018, with J. Delhey, K. Boehnke, G. Dragolov, M. Larsen, J. Lorenz, M. Koch).

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