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Roberts, J. M., Jr., & Brewer, D. D. (2001). Measures and tests of heaping in discrete quantitative distributions. Journal of Applied Statistics, 28, 887-896.

abstract      pdf of full article

Heaping is often found in discrete quantitative data based on subject responses to open-ended interview questions or observer assessments.  Heaping occurs when subjects or observers prefer some set of numbers as response (e.g., multiples o 5) simply because of the features of this set.  Although heaping represents a common type of measurement error, apparently no prior general measure of heaping exists.  We present simple measures and tests of heaping in discrete quantitative data, illustrate them with data from an epidemiologic study, and evaluate the bias of these statistics.  These techniques permit formal measurement of heaping and facilitate comparisons of the degree of heaping in data from different samples, substantive domains, and data collection methods.

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