Latent Variable

A Latent Variable is a variable that is not directly observed or measured, but is inferred from other variables that are observed and directly measured. In statistical modeling and psychometrics, latent variables often represent abstract concepts such as intelligence, satisfaction, or depression, which can be conceptualized but not directly measured.


  • Unobservable: Unlike observed variables, latent variables are not directly measurable.
  • Inferred: They are inferred from a mathematical model and observed variables.
  • Represent Abstract Concepts: Often used to represent underlying characteristics or attributes.


  • Endogenous Latent Variables: These are latent variables that are influenced by both observed and unobserved variables within the model. In other words, they serve as dependent variables in the model.
  • Exogenous Latent Variables: These are latent variables that influence observed variables but are not themselves influenced by any variable within the model. They serve as independent variables.
  • Measurement: Latent variables are typically measured through a set of observed variables known as indicators. The strength of the relationship between the latent variable and its indicators is quantified through factor loadings in techniques like factor analysis or structural equation modeling.


  • Psychology: Latent variables are commonly used to model psychological constructs like intelligence, personality traits, and mental health states.
  • Economics: In economics, latent variables can be used to represent unobservable attributes like consumer utility, productivity, and propensity to spend.
  • Healthcare: In healthcare, latent variables can be used to identify underlying dimensions of health, such as the severity of a condition or the impact of a treatment, based on observed symptoms or outcomes.

Statistical Techniques

Several statistical methods can be used to model latent variables, including:

  • Factor Analysis
  • Structural Equation Modeling
  • Latent Class Analysis
  • Item Response Theory


  • Interpretation: The interpretation of latent variables is often subject to the quality and nature of the observed variables used to measure them.
  • Complexity: Models involving latent variables can become mathematically complex and may require large sample sizes.

See Also