Taking Dyads Seriously: A Latent Network Approach for Global Politics

Much of international relations scholarship concerns dyads. Dyadic hypotheses and especially dyadic data abound. Standard modeling approaches fail to adequately capture the data generating process behind dyadic events and processes. As a result, they suffer from biased coefficients and poorly calibrated standard errors. We introduce a regression-based approach, the Additive and Multiplicative Effects (AME) model, that better accounts for the inherent dependencies in dyadic data. First, we conduct a simulation to highlight how the model captures dependencies and show that accounting for these processes improves our ability to conduct inference on dyadic data. Second, we compare the AME model to approaches used in three prominent studies from recent international relations scholarship. For each study, we find that compared to AME, the modeling approach used performs notably worse at capturing the data generating process. Further, conventional methods misstate the effect of key variables and the uncertainty in these effects. Finally, AME dominates standard approaches in terms of out-of-sample fit. In sum, our work shows the consequences of failing to take the dependencies inherent to dyadic data seriously. Most importantly, by better modeling the data generating process underlying political phenomena, the AME framework improves scholars’ ability to conduct inferential analyses.

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