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Alastair Leyland1 commented on a paper in the December 2010 issue2 about how individual mortality is influenced by the person's own education and the average education in the municipality of residence. The paper was based on a so-called ‘fixed-effects’ model, which is quite common in social science, but not in epidemiology. Leyland's intention was to explain the assumptions and limitations of the model to the readers, which is a highly laudable initiative. However, I am not sure the alternative model he suggests is very valuable.
This is the model under discussion (with new notation to improve readability):(1)
where pijt is the probability that individual i in municipality j dies within year t (1980–2002), Xijt is a vector of individual characteristics, including the person's education, Ejt is the average education in the municipality, Tt are year dummies and Fj are municipality dummies (or ‘fixed effects’). The latter are included to control for constant unobserved municipality factors that …
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