Differential Item Functioning Effect Size From the Multigroup Confirmatory Factor Analysis for a Meta-Analysis: A Simulation Study

Sung Eun Park, Soyeon Ahn, Cengiz Zopluoglu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study presents a new approach to synthesizing differential item functioning (DIF) effect size: First, using correlation matrices from each study, we perform a multigroup confirmatory factor analysis (MGCFA) that examines measurement invariance of a test item between two subgroups (i.e., focal and reference groups). Then we synthesize, across the studies, the differences in the estimated factor loadings between the two subgroups, resulting in a meta-analytic summary of the MGCFA effect sizes (MGCFA-ES). The performance of this new approach was examined using a Monte Carlo simulation, where we created 108 conditions by four factors: (1) three levels of item difficulty, (2) four magnitudes of DIF, (3) three levels of sample size, and (4) three types of correlation matrix (tetrachoric, adjusted Pearson, and Pearson). Results indicate that when MGCFA is fitted to tetrachoric correlation matrices, the meta-analytic summary of the MGCFA-ES performed best in terms of bias and mean square error values, 95% confidence interval coverages, empirical standard errors, Type I error rates, and statistical power; and reasonably well with adjusted Pearson correlation matrices. In addition, when tetrachoric correlation matrices are used, a meta-analytic summary of the MGCFA-ES performed well, particularly, under the condition that a high difficulty item with a large DIF was administered to a large sample size. Our result offers an option for synthesizing the magnitude of DIF on a flagged item across studies in practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-199
Number of pages18
JournalEducational and Psychological Measurement
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Pearson correlation
  • adjusted Pearson correlation
  • differential item functioning (DIF)
  • meta-analysis
  • multigroup confirmatory factor analysis (MGCFA)
  • tetrachoric correlation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Applied Mathematics


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