Definitions of Ecological Fallacy
- (noun) A mistake caused by assuming what is true for a group is true for the individual members of the group.
- (noun) In statistical analysis, an error caused by inferring aggregate data remains true on an individual level.
Example of Ecological Fallacy
Ecological Fallacy Pronunciation
- IPA Pronunciation
- Syllabification: (ec·o·log·i·cal fal·la·cy)
- Plural: ecological fallacies
- Term originated in William S. Robinson’s (1913–1996) work “Ecological Correlations and the Behavior of Individuals” (1950).
- In this instance, ecological refers to a group or system, something larger than an individual. An ecological study refers to research on groups and used to find connections between groups and their environment. Suicide: A Study in Sociology by Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) is a sociological example of an ecological study. Ecological studies are difficult to validate because of the effects of unknown confounding variables.
- An ecological fallacy assumes what is true on the macrolevel is true on the microlevel.
- An ecological fallacy occurs with aggregate data, a similar error occurs with categorical data called Simpson’s paradox.
- To avoid an ecological fallacy, properly defining a unit of analysis is essential.
- An ecological fallacy is the opposite of exception fallacy.
- A type of deduction error.
- Also called:
- aggregation bias
- aggregative fallacy
- ecological bias
- ecological inference
- ecological inference fallacy
- wrong level fallacy
- “Although you should be careful not to commit the ecological fallacy, don’t let these warnings lead you into committing what we might call the individualistic fallacy. Some people who approach social research for the first time have trouble reconciling general patterns of attitudes and actions with individual exceptions. But generalizations and probabilistic statements are not invalidated by such exceptions. Your knowing a rich Democrat, for example, doesn’t deny the fact that most rich people vote Republican—as a general pattern. Similarly, if you know someone who has gotten rich without any formal education, that doesn’t deny the general pattern of higher education relating to higher income” (Babbie 2011:108).
- Qualitative Research Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Quantitative Research Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “ecological” and “fallacy” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
Babbie, Earl R. 2011. The Basics of Social Research. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).
Ravelli, Bruce, and Michelle Webber. 2016. Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pearson.
Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “ecological fallacy.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved August 24, 2019 (https://sociologydictionary.org/ecological-fallacy/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
ecological fallacy. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/ecological-fallacy/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “ecological fallacy.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed August 24, 2019. https://sociologydictionary.org/ecological-fallacy/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“ecological fallacy.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 24 Aug. 2019. <https://sociologydictionary.org/ecological-fallacy/>.