More efficient parameter estimates for factor analysis of ordinal variables by ridge generalized least squares

Ke-hai Yuan, Ge Jiang, Ying Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Data in psychology are often collected using Likert‐type scales, and it has been shown that factor analysis of Likert‐type data is better performed on the polychoric correlation matrix than on the product‐moment covariance matrix, especially when the distributions of the observed variables are skewed. In theory, factor analysis of the polychoric correlation matrix is best conducted using generalized least squares with an asymptotically correct weight matrix (AGLS). However, simulation studies showed that both least squares (LS) and diagonally weighted least squares (DWLS) perform better than AGLS, and thus LS or DWLS is routinely used in practice. In either LS or DWLS, the associations among the polychoric correlation coefficients are completely ignored. To mend such a gap between statistical theory and empirical work, this paper proposes new methods, called ridge GLS, for factor analysis of ordinal data. Monte Carlo results show that, for a wide range of sample sizes, ridge GLS methods yield uniformly more accurate parameter estimates than existing methods (LS, DWLS, AGLS). A real‐data example indicates that estimates by ridge GLS are 9–20% more efficient than those by existing methods. Rescaled and adjusted test statistics as well as sandwich‐type standard errors following the ridge GLS methods also perform reasonably well.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-564
Number of pages40
JournalBritish Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • polychoric correlation
  • rescaled and adjusted test statistics
  • root mean square error
  • sandwich-type standard error

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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