Direction Dependence Analysis in the Presence of Confounders: Applications to Linear Mediation Models Using Observational Data
Statistical methods to identify mis-specifications of linear regression models with respect to the direction of dependence (i.e. whether or better approximates the data-generating mechanism) have received considerable attention. Direction dependence analysis (DDA) constitutes such a statistical tool and makes use of higher-moment information of variables to derive statements concerning directional model mis-specifications in observational data. Previous studies on direction of dependence mainly focused on statistical inference and guidelines for the selection from the two directionally competing candidate models ( versus ) while assuming the absence of unobserved common causes. The present study describes properties of DDA when confounders are present and extends existing DDA methodology by incorporating the confounder model as a possible explanation. We show that all three explanatory models can be uniquely identified under standard DDA assumptions. Further, we discuss the proposed approach in the context of testing competing mediation models and evaluate an organizational model proposing a mediational relation between school leadership and student achievement via school safety using observational data from an urban school district. Overall, DDA provides strong empirical support that school safety has indeed a causal effect on student achievement but suggests that important confounders are present in the school leadership–safety relation.