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Corrected Standard Errors with Clustered Data

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 October 2019

John E. Jackson*
Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. Email:


The use of cluster robust standard errors (CRSE) is common as data are often collected from units, such as cities, states or countries, with multiple observations per unit. There is considerable discussion of how best to estimate standard errors and confidence intervals when using CRSE (Harden 2011; Imbens and Kolesár 2016; MacKinnon and Webb 2017; Esarey and Menger 2019). Extensive simulations in this literature and here show that CRSE seriously underestimate coefficient standard errors and their associated confidence intervals, particularly with a small number of clusters and when there is little within cluster variation in the explanatory variables. These same simulations show that a method developed here provides more reliable estimates of coefficient standard errors. They underestimate confidence intervals for tests of individual and sets of coefficients in extreme conditions, but by far less than do CRSE. Simulations also show that this method produces more accurate standard error and confidence interval estimates than bootstrapping, which is often recommended as an alternative to CRSE.

Copyright © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for Political Methodology.

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Author’s note: I want to thank Ken Kollman, Chuck Shipan, Matthew Webb and the ubiquitous anonymous referee for their helpful comments and Diogo Ferrari for his comments and the R package “ceser” for computing CESE. All are absolved from any and all errors.

Contributing Editor: Jeff Gill


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