Power Analyses for Moderator Effects With (Non)Randomly Varying Slopes in Cluster Randomized Trials


  • Nianbo Dong
  • Jessaca Spybrook
  • Ben Kelcey
  • Metin Bulus


Researchers often apply moderation analyses to examine whether the effects of an intervention differ conditional on individual or cluster moderator variables such as gender, pretest, or school size. This study develops formulas for power analyses to detect moderator effects in two-level cluster randomized trials (CRTs) using hierarchical linear models. We derive the formulas for estimating statistical power, minimum detectable effect size difference and 95% confidence intervals for cluster- and individual-level moderators. Our framework accommodates binary or continuous moderators, designs with or without covariates, and effects of individual-level moderators that vary randomly or nonrandomly across clusters. A small Monte Carlo simulation confirms the accuracy of our formulas. We also compare power between main effect analysis and moderation analysis, discuss the effects of mis-specification of the moderator slope (randomly vs. non-randomly varying), and conclude with directions for future research. We provide software for conducting a power analysis of moderator effects in CRTs.