Latent Class Analysis With Distal Outcomes: A Flexible Model-Based Approach

Stephanie T. Lanza, Xianming Tan, Bethany C. Bray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

390 Scopus citations


Although prediction of class membership from observed variables in latent class analysis is well understood, predicting an observed distal outcome from latent class membership is more complicated. A flexible model-based approach is proposed to empirically derive and summarize the class-dependent density functions of distal outcomes with categorical, continuous, or count distributions. A Monte Carlo simulation study is conducted to compare the performance of the new technique to 2 commonly used classify-analyze techniques: maximum-probability assignment and multiple pseudoclass draws. Simulation results show that the model-based approach produces substantially less biased estimates of the effect compared to either classify-analyze technique, particularly when the association between the latent class variable and the distal outcome is strong. In addition, we show that only the model-based approach is consistent. The approach is demonstrated empirically: latent classes of adolescent depression are used to predict smoking, grades, and delinquency. SAS syntax for implementing this approach using PROC LCA and a corresponding macro are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalStructural Equation Modeling
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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