variable

variable
In the physical sciences, variables are the characteristics of entities which are physically manipulated, such as the heat or volume of a substance. In the social sciences, the term refers to attributes which are fixed for each person or other social entity, but which are observed to be at different levels, amounts, or strengths across samples and other aggregate groups. Variables measure a social construct (such as social class, age, or housing type) in a way which renders it amenable to numerical analysis. Thus, the key feature of a variable is that it is capable of reflecting variation within a population, and is not a constant.
There are various difficulties involved in the process of creating variables from constructs (operationalization). The central considerations here are validity (that the variable is a true measurement of the construct it is aimed at) and reliability (that its measurement is reliable).
Variables may be measured at different levels of measurement, but the basic distinction is between continuous variables such as income, and categoric or discrete variables such as class. Relatively few social variables are continuous-forming interval scales such as income or age. Most are discrete, forming ordinal and nominal scales, such as highest educational qualification obtained, or sex, respectively. The different levels of measurement have implications for the types of analysis that can be undertaken.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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  • variable — [ varjabl ] adj. et n. • fin XII e; lat. variabilis 1 ♦ Qui est susceptible de se modifier, de changer souvent au cours d une durée. ⇒ changeant, 1. incertain, instable. Temps variable. N. m. Météor. L aiguille du baromètre est au variable, sur… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Variable — Va ri*a*ble, a. [L. variabilis: cf. F. variable.] [1913 Webster] 1. Having the capacity of varying or changing; capable of alternation in any manner; changeable; as, variable winds or seasons; a variable quantity. [1913 Webster] 2. Liable to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Variable — Variable, dt. Veränderliche bezeichnet: Variable (Philosophie), ein in der Philosophie mit unterschiedlichen Interpretationen belegter Begriff Variable (Programmierung), in der Informationstechnik ein Speicherplatz abhängige und unabhängige… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Variable — Va ri*a*ble, n. 1. That which is variable; that which varies, or is subject to change. [1913 Webster] 2. (Math.) A quantity which may increase or decrease; a quantity which admits of an infinite number of values in the same expression; a variable …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • variable — adj. de tout genre. Sujet à varier, qui change souvent. En ce climat les saisons sont fort variables. temps variable. vent variable. la fortune est variable. c est un esprit variable. il est variable dans ses opinions, dans ses resolutions …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • variable — (Del lat. variabĭlis). 1. adj. Que varía o puede variar. 2. Inestable, inconstante y mudable. 3. f. Mat. Magnitud que puede tener un valor cualquiera de los comprendidos en un conjunto. variable estadística. f. Mat. Magnitud cuyos valores están… …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • variable — Variable, Versutus, Inconstans, Mobilis, Desultorius. Estre variable et legier, Fidem mutare. Amitié variable, Desultoria amicitia, id est, identidem euarians, non constans …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • variable — ► ADJECTIVE 1) not consistent or having a fixed pattern; liable to vary. 2) able to be changed or adapted. 3) Mathematics (of a quantity) able to assume different numerical values. ► NOUN 1) a variable element, feature, or quantity. 2) Astronomy… …   English terms dictionary

  • variable — sujeto a variación. Inestable, inconstante y mudable. Valor numérico sobre el que puede establecerse una curva de variabilidad Diccionario ilustrado de Términos Médicos.. Alvaro Galiano. 2010. variable Factor de un experimento científico que… …   Diccionario médico

  • variable — [ver′ē ə bəl, var′ē ə bəl] adj. [ME < MFr < L variabilis] 1. apt or likely to change or vary; changeable, inconstant, fickle, fluctuating, etc. 2. that can be changed or varied 3. Biol. tending to deviate in some way from the type; aberrant …   English World dictionary

  • variable — I adjective aberrant, alterable, capricious, changeable, changeful, erratic, faithless, fanciful, fast and loose, fickle, fitful, fluctuating, inconstant, irregular, irresponsible, mercurial, modifiable, oscillating, protean, shifting, spasmodic …   Law dictionary

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