# What Is a Nominal Variable?

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When you fill out a survey, your responses are often aggregated and subjected to statistical analysis. Nominal variables are often gathered in order to place people into groups. Thus, nominal variables are also called categorical variables.

## Definition

According to researchers at University of California, Los Angeles, nominal variables contain two or more categories without a natural ordering of the categories. They essentially label data collected in a study.

## Understanding

University of Delaware professor Dr. John H. McDonald notes that an individual nominal variable is usually a name, not a number.

## Examples

McDonald mentions a common nominal variable--gender (male or female). Other examples include political affiliation, hair color and beverage preference.

## Presentation

Nominal variables are often described in terms of percentages or proportions, writes McDonald. For instance, when you hear a statistic that 42 percent of respondents were male and 58 percent were female, the tally of the nominal variable "gender" is being reported.

## Analysis

It is common for researchers to convert measurement variables into a nominal variable for analytical purposes. McDonald uses an example of grouping people into a "low" and "high” cholesterol group based on their numerical cholesterol levels, which is a measurement variable. A cutoff point is established; everyone below that figure falls into the low group, and everyone above goes in the high group.

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