Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman

Ecological Fallacy

  • Jane MonacoEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_1017-2



Ecological fallacy is improperly inferring an association (or lack of association) at an individual-level based on a group-level relationship.

Ecologic studies use measures taken at the level of a group (such as a country, school, or hospital) rather than at the individual (such as patient) level. Ecologic studies are widespread in behavioral medicine literature due their low cost and convenience since ecologic data can often be obtained through census records or existing surveys and records. Two typical behavioral medicine ecologic examples are a study investigating the association between alcohol availability and violence (Gorman et al. 2005) in which data were collected at the census tract level and a study investigating the association between needle exchange programs and HIV seroprevalence among injecting drug users (Hurley et al. 1997) in which data were collected at the city level.

When risk factors and outcomes are measured at an aggregate...

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References and Further Reading

  1. Durkheim, E. (1951). Suicide: A study in sociology (trans: Spaulding, S.). Glencoe: Free Press. (Original Work Published 1897).Google Scholar
  2. Gorman, D., Zhu, L., & Horel, S. (2005). Drug “hot-spots”, alcohol availability and violence. Drug and Alcohol Review, 24(6), 507–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Hurley, S. F., Jolley, D. J., & Kaldor, J. M. (1997). Effectiveness of needle-exchange programmes for prevention of HIV infection. The Lancet, 349(9068), 1797–1800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Morgenstern, H. (1982). Uses of ecologic analysis in epidemiologic research. American Journal of Public Health, 72(12), 1336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Robinson, W. S. (2009). Ecological correlations and the behavior of individuals. International Journal of Epidemiology, 38(2), 337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiostatisticsThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • J. Rick Turner
    • 1
  1. 1.Clinical Communications, QuintilesDurhamUSA