Independent Variable: I have a survey of 50 states indicating the amount of control the state board of education has in 31 areas answered on a three point scale (1 = total control; 2 = partial control; 3 = no control). I have a solid theoretical underpinning for all 31, or to be more precise, the literature review found evidence for all 31 as being important (Study X found items 1, 4 and 7; Study Y found items 2, 9, and 11, etc.)

Dependent variable: % of students graduating HS within 4 years.

What I would like to do is the following:

  1. Use factor analysis (SPSS) to reduce the 31 down to no more than 4 to 6 variables.
  2. Using the results from 1), run a regression vs. the % of students graduating HS within 4 years.

Is there some sort of step by step guide somewhere on how to do this?



Ok, this is what I have done and I believe it is correct (any confirmation would be greatly appreciated) using SPSS 18:

  1. In SPSS Analyze -> Dimension Reduction -> Factor
  2. Descriptives: Initial Solution
  3. Extraction: Method = Principal components; Analyze = Correlation matrix; Display = Unrotated factor solution and Scree plot; Extract: Based on Eigenvalue greater than 1; Maximum Iterations for Convergence = 25
  4. Rotation: Method = Varimax; Display = Rotated Solution and Loading Plots; Maximum Iterations for Convergence = 25
  5. Scores: Save as variables; Method = Regression; Display factor score coefficient matrix
  6. Options: Exclude cases listwise; Suppress small coefficients [with] absolute value below. 10

The result are 9 saved columns (FAC1_1, FAC1_2, FAC1_3...FAC1_9) in the SPSS sheet.

The Total Variance Explained -> Rotation Sums of Squared Loadings indicates that the first 5 of these explain 51.51% of the variance.

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So, should I then go back into SPSS run a linear regression (Analyze -> Regression -> Linear) with the Dependent Variable % of students graduating HS within 4 years and the Independent Variables being FAC1_1, FAC1_2, FAC1_3, FAC1_4, and FAC1_5?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Not a good one. Any such guide would have to simplify so much that it would use a lot of methodologically suspect shortcuts such as "Tom Swift's Electric Factor Analysis Machine" or the notoriously risky stepwise regression algorithms. I'm afraid you've entered an area that requires long hours of study if you are looking for sound results and/or an understanding of causal relationships. Welcome! $\endgroup$
    – rolando2
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know whether this is helpful but I've done for this a short discussion with some synthetic data to focus some of the aspects of what you want to to. I created a dataset of 10 independent and one dependent variable to show how a regression on the PC's can be done. But I've also given the independent items a certain correlative structure so that is ise more meaningful to handle the items in groups and focus on separate first principal components on each item-group. I hope this is instructive, see go.helms-net.de/stat/sse/(SSE)_140822_PCA_Regression.htm $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ Ok I have done the following update (See above) $\endgroup$
    – user39799
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 15:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd say you've extract too many factors. Consider using the scree plot instead. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 16:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ... and please don't rotate PCAs. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


The problem that I see with your question is as follows:

31 is not a VERY large number of variables, at least not so large that you could not by-hand cluster similar variables into 4 or 5 latent variables using sum-scores, as you aim to do. This should give very approximately similar results to the factor analysis. If it doesn't, I would trust the by-hand scores more. The benefit of doing this is:

  1. Scoring is done by nature of the research question, not the structure of the collected data.
  2. The usual assumptions and very large "p" of data mining hardly apply here so the structure of the data is dubious to begin with. I am not confident that a number of "orthogonal" components would summarize something that school board educators would be interested in.
  3. 0 reproducibility error. Very easy to replicate and understand results. Could potentially benchmark and compare results between districts.
  4. People reviewing such an analysis will agree that, while the measure may not be perfect, it should have good power to go about conducting a confirmatory factor analysis.

I am not advocating that you should inspect, say, a heirarchical clustering and/or heatmap or use other analyses to show the interdependence of variables, and/or that you shouldn't try to, say, run a univariate factor analysis and create latent varaible scores using these as independent predictors in a regression model (note that the standard errors here aren't correct because they don't account for uncertainty in the scores). These types of analyses can help to better understand the confirmatory analysis above.

  • $\begingroup$ create latent varaible scores using these as independent predictors in a regression model (note that the standard errors here aren't correct because they don't account for uncertainty in the scores). Which is what I thought I was doing by Analyze -> Dimension Reduction -> Factor and getting the resulting scores (see above). Is this something different? $\endgroup$
    – user39799
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ Factor analysis is an automated process that creates a sparse matrix representation of predictors using a basis of a number of latent variables. This basis is constructed as linear combination of predictors to form orthogonal components. This ignores the structure of the outcome which is a minor limitation. It also ignores anything you might know about the problem at hand which is a major limitation. Be careful with your SPSS dropdowns! $\endgroup$
    – AdamO
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 17:25

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