Bayesian Measures of Explained Variance and Pooling in Multilevel (Hierarchical) Models

Andrew Gelman and Iain Pardoe

Abstract

Explained variance (R2) is a familiar summary of the fit of a linear regression and has been generalized in various ways to multilevel (hierarchical) models. The multilevel models we consider in this paper are characterized by hierarchical data structures in which individuals are grouped into units (which themselves might be further grouped into larger units), and there are variables measured on individuals and each grouping unit. The models are based on regression relationships at different levels, with the first level corresponding to the individual data, and subsequent levels corresponding to between-group regressions of individual predictor effects on grouping unit variables. We present an approach to defining R2 at each level of the multilevel model, rather than attempting to create a single summary measure of fit. Our method is based on comparing variances in a single fitted model rather than comparing to a null model. In simple regression, our measure generalizes the classical adjusted R2. We also discuss a related variance comparison to summarize the degree to which estimates at each level of the model are pooled together based on the level-specific regression relationship, rather than estimated separately. This pooling factor is related to the concept of shrinkage in simple hierarchical models. We illustrate the methods on a dataset of radon in houses within counties using a series of models ranging from a simple linear regression model to a multilevel varying-intercept, varying-slope model.

Keywords: adjusted R-squared, Bayesian inference, hierarchical model, multilevel regression, partial pooling, shrinkage

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Last updated: October 6, 2004


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