Survey Guidelines


This contribution provides an overview of the theoretical conceptualisation, empirical operationalisation, and measurement and coding of education in German and cross-national survey research. In this context, education refers to the highest level of education successfully completed and must be distin-guished from concepts such as competencies, scholastic achievement, and fields of study. Because edu-cation is often included in statistical models merely as a matter of routine, the present contribution focuses on the relationship between the theoretical concept, the indicator, the measurement instru-ment, and the variables. When doing so, it draws on many years of social science research on returns to education and educational inequality. It distinguishes between linear, ordinal, and categorical concepts of education that have emerged from different theoretical approaches and that, in part, place different demands on measurement and coding. Indeed, there is a distinct lack of consensus on how education should be conceptualised, measured, compared across countries, and statistically modelled. For that reason, the present contribution does not give a recommendation for a “one size fits all” education variable that would be suitable for all surveys. Rather, it endeavours to encourage readers to make an informed decision on the measurement of education in the respective research context and to support them in doing so. 

English-language version (1.4 MB)

Version 2.0; doi: 10.15465/gesis-sg_en_020

German-language version (14.8 MB)

Version 1.1; doi: 10.15465/10.15465/gesis-sg_020-1

(14.8 MB)


Schneider, S. L. (2016). The Conceptualisation, Measurement, and Coding of Education in German and Cross-National Surveys. GESIS Survey Guidelines. Mannheim, Germany: GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences. doi: 10.15465/gesis-sg_en_020