Survey Guidelines

Standardization and Harmonization of Socio-Demographic Variables

Demographic and socio-economic variables are, as a rule, the independent variables in survey research. For a comparison of the attitudes and behaviour of the respondents across different surveys, a standardisation of these independent variables is essential. In Germany, a working group established by the umbrella organisations of the groups that conduct surveys – academic social researchers, commercial market and social researchers, and the Federal Statistical Office – has developed and formulated such an instrument, which is known as the “Demographic Standards”. The individual variables of the current edition (2010) are described here.

In the case of cross-cultural and cross-national comparisons, however, standardisation is not possible. Here, the only way to establish comparability is to harmonise the individual variables across the cultures or countries participating in the survey. The various harmonisation techniques and the rules to be observed when applying them are described.


Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik, J. H. P. (2016). Standardisation and Harmonisation of Socio-Demographic Variables. GESIS Survey Guidelines. Mannheim, Germany: GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences. doi: 10.15465/gesis-sg_en_012