Common Levels of Data Measurement

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Four common levels of data measurement follow.

Nominal Level. The lowest level of data measurement is the nominal level. Numbers representing nominal level data (the word level often is omitted) can be used only to classify or categorize. Employee identification numbers are an example of nominal data. The numbers are used only to differentiate employees and not to make a value statement about them. Many demographic questions in surveys result in data that are nominal because the questions are used for classification only. Some other types of variables that often produce nominal-level data are sex, religion, ethnicity, geographic location, and place of birth. Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, employee ID numbers, and ZIP code numbers are further examples of nominal data. Statistical techniques that are appropriate for analyzing nominal data are limited. However, some of the more widely used statistics, such as the chi-square statistic, can be applied to nominal data, often producing useful information.

Ordinal-level data measurement is higher than the nominal level. In addition to the nominal level capabilities, ordinal-level measurement can be used to rank or order objects.

Interval-level data measurement is the next to the highest level of data in which the distances between consecutive numbers have meaning and the data are always numerical. The distances represented by the differences between consecutive numbers are equal; that is, interval data have equal intervals. An example of interval measurement is Fahrenheit temperature. With Fahrenheit temperature numbers, the temperatures can be ranked, and the amounts of heat between consecutive readings, such as 200, 210, and 220, are the same. In addition, with interval-level data, the zero point is a matter of convention or convenience and not a natural or fixed zero point. Zero is just another point on the scale and does not mean the absence of the...
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