Factor Analysis Revisited - How Many Factors are There?

Yisrael Parmet, Edna Schechtman, Michael Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We suggest a procedure to improve the overall performances of several existing methods for determining the number of factors in factor analysis by using alternative measures of correlation: Pearson's, Spearman's, Gini's, and a robust estimator of the covariance matrix (MCD). We examine the effect of the choice of the covariance used on the number of factors chosen by the KG rule of one, the 80% rule, the Minimum average partial (MAP), and the Parallel Analysis Methodology (PAM). Extensive simulations show that when the entire (or part) of the data come from heavy-tail (lognormal) distributions, ranking the variables which come from non symmetric distributions improves the performances of the methods. In this case, Gini is slightly better than Spearman. The PAM and MAP procedures are qualitatively superior to the KG and the 80% rules in determining the true number of factors. A real example involving data on document authorship is analyzed.
Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)1893-1908
JournalCommunications in Statistics Part B: Simulation and Computation
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2010


  • Correlation
  • Factor analysis
  • Principal components


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