A Review of Educational Attainment Measures for Social Survey Research

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This paper is a review of issues associated with measuring education and using educational measures in social science research. The review is orientated towards researchers who undertake secondary analyses of large-scale micro-level social science datasets. The paper begins with an outline of important context which impinges upon the measurement of education. The UK is the focus of this review, but similar issues apply to other nation states. We provide a critical introduction to the main approaches to measuring education in social survey research, which include measuring years of education, using categorical qualification-based measures and scaling approaches. We advocate the use of established education measures to better facilitate comparability and replication. We conclude by making the recommendation that researchers place careful thought into which educational measure they select, and that researchers should routinely engage in appropriate sensitivity analyses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalMethodological Innovations Online
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2016


  • measuring education
  • social surveys
  • quantitative data analysis
  • UK


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