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Levels of Measurement: Ordinal

Understand the levels of measurement.

Ordinal Variables: Definition and Practice Questions

In ordinal measurement, the values stress the order or rank of the values, but the differences between each one is not really known. You might consider yourself middle class, but how much better off are you compared to a friend of yours who identified him/herself as lower class? In ordinal variables, the numerical values name the attribute or characteristics but also allow us to place the categories in a natural and reasonable order.


Other Examples of Ordinal Variable:

  • Likert scale Strongly disagree; Disagree; Neither agree nor disagree; Agree; Strongly agree.
  • Class standing Freshman, sophomore, junior, senior
  • Socioeconomic standing – Lower, middle, and upper class
  • Quality of democracy – Very high, high, medium, low, very low


Why do we need to learn this? Because many social science and political science variables tend to be nominal (think of NAME) or ordinal (think of ORDER), it is important that you are able to understand and distinguish them clearly. 


What might be confusing about Ordinal variable?

Another common occurrence in the social sciences is the creation of categories from an underlying measurement. For example, the performance of a government policy may be assessed as superior, effective, minimal, or inadequate. These four categories correspond to an objective score as follows: Superior – 90 to 100; Effective – 70 to 89; Minimal – 40 to 69; Inadequate – 0 to 39. Even though the four categories were determined by a score from 1 to 100, the categories themselves are measured at the ordinal level.


Can you try it on your own?

  1. True or False: You are hired by a marketing research agency to test a new iPhone.  Consumers were asked to rate it outstanding, very good, fair or poor.  The level of measurement for this market research is ordinal. 

    A: True

    B: False

  2. True or False: You are trying to study the impact of socio-economic status of college students and their interests in politics. You ask your respondents to rate their socio-economic status as follows; low, middle, or upper class. The level of measurement for the socio-economic variable is ordinal. 

    A: True

    B: False

1. True  

2. True

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