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Original article
Assortativity coefficient-based estimation of population patterns of sexual mixing when cluster size is informative
  1. Siobhan K Young1,
  2. Robert H Lyles2,
  3. Lawrence L Kupper1,
  4. Jessica R Keys1,
  5. Sandra L Martin1,
  6. Elizabeth C Costenbader3
  1. 1University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  3. 3FHI 360, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Siobhan K Young, Department of Maternal and Child Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 401 Rosenau Hall, CB# 7445, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7445, USA; siobhankyoung{at}gmail.com

Abstract

Objectives Population sexual mixing patterns can be quantified using Newman's assortativity coefficient (r). Suggested methods for estimating the SE for r may lead to inappropriate statistical conclusions in situations where intracluster correlation is ignored and/or when cluster size is predictive of the response. We describe a computer-intensive, but highly accessible, within-cluster resampling approach for providing a valid large-sample estimated SE for r and an associated 95% CI.

Methods We introduce needed statistical notation and describe the within-cluster resampling approach. Sexual network data and a simulation study were employed to compare within-cluster resampling with standard methods when cluster size is informative.

Results For the analysis of network data when cluster size is informative, the simulation study demonstrates that within-cluster resampling produces valid statistical inferences about Newman's assortativity coefficient, a popular statistic used to quantify the strength of mixing patterns. In contrast, commonly used methods are biased with attendant extremely poor CI coverage. Within-cluster resampling is recommended when cluster size is informative and/or when there is within-cluster response correlation.

Conclusions Within-cluster resampling is recommended for providing valid statistical inferences when applying Newman's assortativity coefficient r to network data.

  • Sexual Networks
  • Mathematical Model
  • Transmission Dynamics
  • Reproductive Health

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