Meuleman and Billiet (2009) have carried out a simulation study aimed at the question how many countries are needed for accurate multilevel SEM estimation in comparative studies. The authors concluded that a sample of 50 to 100 countries is needed for accurate estimation. Recently, Bayesian estimation methods have been introduced in structural equation modeling which should work well with much lower sample sizes. The current study reanalyzes the simulation of Meuleman and Billiet using Bayesian estimation to find the lowest number of countries needed when conducting multilevel SEM. The main result of our simulations is that a sample of about 20 countries is sufficient for accurate Bayesian estimation, which makes multilevel SEM practicable for the number of countries commonly available in large scale comparative surveys.

Hox, J., Van de Schoot, R., & Matthijsse, S. (2012). How few countries will do? Comparative survey analysis from a Bayesian perspective. Survey Research Methods, 6(2), 87-93.

Joop Hox
Emeritus Professor social science methodology
Joop occupies himself with data quality in surveys and analysis models for complex data. Recently, his studies are on non-response problems in surveys and interviewer effects. The complex data types are often multilevel or clustered data.
Visit website