Missing at random assumption made more plausible: evidence from the 1958 British birth cohort

T. Mostafa, M. Narayanan, B. Pongiglione, B. Dodgeon, A. Goodman, R.J. Silverwood, G.B. Ploubidis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Non-response is unavoidable in longitudinal surveys. The consequences are lower statistical power and the potential for bias. We implemented a systematic data-driven approach to identify predictors of non-response in the National Child Development Study (NCDS; 1958 British birth cohort). Such variables can help make the missing at random assumption more plausible, which has implications for the handling of missing data

Study Design and Setting: We identified predictors of non-response using data from the 11 sweeps (birth to age 55) of the NCDS (n = 17,415), employing parametric regressions and the LASSO for variable selection.

Results: Disadvantaged socio-economic background in childhood, worse mental health and lower cognitive ability in early life, and lack of civic and social participation in adulthood were consistently associated with non-response. Using this information, along with other data from NCDS, we were able to replicate the “population distribution” of educational attainment and marital status (derived from external data), and the original distributions of key early life characteristics.

Conclusion: The identified predictors of non-response have the potential to improve the plausibility of the missing at random assumption. They can be straightforwardly used as “auxiliary variables” in analyses with principled methods to reduce bias due to missing data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-54
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Early online date27 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Cohort studies
  • Longitudinal data
  • Missing data
  • Multiple imputation
  • National Child Development Study
  • Non-response


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