Variables

# Discrete Variable – Definition, Types and Examples

## Discrete Variable

Definition:

A discrete variable is a type of variable in statistics that can only take on a finite or countably infinite set of values. In other words, the variable can only take on certain specific values and not any values within a range. Such as the number of siblings a person has or the number of days per week that a person exercises.

### Types of Discrete Variables

Common Types of Discrete Variables are:

• Dichotomous variables: These variables can only take on two values. For example, gender (male or female) is a dichotomous variable.
• Nominal variables: These variables can take on a set of values that are not ordered. Examples include eye color (blue, green, brown), favorite color (red, blue, green), or type of car (sedan, SUV, truck).
• Ordinal variables: These variables can take on a set of values that are ordered. Examples include education level (high school, college, graduate school), income level (low, middle, high), or customer satisfaction rating (poor, fair, good, excellent).
• Count variables: These variables represent the number of times an event occurs within a specific period. Examples include the number of cars passing through a toll booth in an hour, the number of books in a library, or the number of people attending a concert.
• Time variables: These variables measure the time it takes for an event to occur or the duration of an event. Examples include the time it takes to complete a task, the duration of a movie, or the age of a person.

### Analysis Methods

Discrete variable analysis methods are statistical techniques used to analyze data that involves discrete variables. Some common methods for analyzing discrete variables include:

• Frequency tables: This method involves tabulating the number of occurrences of each possible value of a discrete variable.
• Cross-tabulation: This method involves creating a table that shows the distribution of two or more discrete variables together. It allows for the comparison of the relationship between two or more variables.
• Chi-square test: This statistical test is used to determine whether there is a significant association between two categorical variables.
• Poisson regression: This regression model is used to analyze the relationship between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables when the dependent variable is a count variable.
• Logistic regression: This regression model is used to analyze the relationship between a binary dependent variable (i.e., a variable with only two possible outcomes) and one or more independent variables.

### Examples of Discrete Variable

Here are some examples of discrete variables from different fields:

• Education: Number of students in a classroom, number of years of education completed, number of books read in a month.
• Health: Number of hours of sleep per night, number of cigarettes smoked per day, number of times a person exercises per week.
• Finance: Number of credit cards owned, number of stocks in a portfolio, number of insurance policies held.
• Marketing: Number of products purchased, number of clicks on an online ad, number of subscribers to a newsletter.
• Sociology: Marital status, number of children in a family, number of people living in a household.
• Psychology: Number of friends, number of times a person experiences anxiety per week, number of phobias a person has.
• Sports: Number of goals scored in a game, number of points earned in a match, number of assists made in a season.

### Purpose of Discrete Variable

The purpose of a discrete variable is to represent a characteristic or attribute that can only take on a limited number of distinct values. These variables are used in data collection and analysis to describe and understand different phenomena or aspects of a population or sample.

Some of the purposes of using discrete variables include:

• Categorization: Discrete variables are often used to categorize individuals or things into distinct groups based on a particular characteristic. For example, marital status can be used to categorize people into single, married, divorced, or widowed.
• Counting: Discrete variables can be used to represent a count or number of occurrences of a particular event or characteristic. For example, the number of children in a family or the number of times a person exercises per week.
• Comparisons: Discrete variables can be used to compare different groups or subgroups of a population based on a particular characteristic. For example, comparing the number of smokers vs. non-smokers in a population.
• Predictions: Discrete variables can be used in statistical modeling and predictive analysis to forecast future events or trends. For example, using the number of customers who have made a purchase to predict future sales.

### When to use Discrete Variable

Discrete variables are used in situations where the characteristic or attribute being measured can only take on a limited number of distinct values. Here are some situations where it is appropriate to use a discrete variable:

• Counting: Discrete variables are often used to count the number of occurrences of a particular event or characteristic. For example, the number of customers who make a purchase or the number of people who attend an event.
• Categorization: Discrete variables are useful for categorizing individuals or things into distinct groups based on a particular characteristic. For example, gender or marital status.
• Limited range: If a variable has a limited range of values, such as the number of children in a family or the number of times a person exercises per week, then it is appropriate to use a discrete variable.
• Binary outcomes: If a variable has only two possible outcomes, such as “yes” or “no”, “true” or “false”, or “success” or “failure”, then it is appropriate to use a discrete variable.
• Nominal data: If the data being collected is nominal, meaning it represents categories with no inherent order or ranking, then it is appropriate to use a discrete variable. For example, a person’s eye color or their favorite type of music.

### Characteristics of Discrete Variable

Here are some of the key characteristics of discrete variables:

• Limited number of distinct values: Discrete variables can only take on a limited number of distinct values, which are typically whole numbers. For example, the number of siblings someone has or the number of pets they own.
• Non-continuous: Discrete variables are non-continuous, which means that there are no values between the distinct values that the variable can take on. For example, if the number of siblings someone has is 2, then there are no values between 2 and 3.
• Countable: Discrete variables are countable, which means that they can be counted and expressed as a whole number. For example, the number of people attending an event or the number of customers who make a purchase.
• Categorical: Discrete variables are often categorical in nature, meaning that they can be used to categorize individuals or things into distinct groups based on a particular characteristic. For example, marital status or type of car.
• Limited range: Discrete variables have a limited range of values, which means that they are only meaningful within a certain range. For example, the number of children in a family cannot be negative, and it is unlikely to be more than 10 or 12.

There are several advantages to using discrete variables in statistical analysis and research:

• Easy to understand: Discrete variables are often simple and easy to understand. They represent distinct categories or counts, which makes them more intuitive and easier to explain to others.
• Useful for categorical data: Discrete variables are often used to represent categorical data, which is data that can be grouped into distinct categories. This can be useful for studying things like demographics or opinions.
• Easy to count: Discrete variables can be counted and expressed as whole numbers, which makes them easier to work with mathematically. This can simplify statistical calculations and make it easier to analyze data.
• Useful for prediction: Discrete variables can be used in statistical models to make predictions about future events. For example, the number of customers who will purchase a product, or the number of people who will attend an event.
• Versatile: Discrete variables can be used in a variety of statistical techniques, such as regression analysis and ANOVA. This makes them a versatile tool for researchers and practitioners in many different fields.

### Limitations of Discrete Variable

Some Limitations of Discrete Variable are:

• Limited range: Discrete variables have a limited range of values, which means that they may not be suitable for measuring continuous variables or those that can take on a wide range of values.
• Less precise: Discrete variables are often less precise than continuous variables, which can make it difficult to detect small differences or changes in data.
• Cannot measure changes: Discrete variables cannot measure changes within categories or values. For example, if a variable only has two values (such as “yes” or “no”), it cannot measure how strongly someone agrees or disagrees with a statement.
• May not capture complexity: Discrete variables can be useful for measuring simple characteristics or attributes, but they may not capture the complexity or nuances of more complex variables.
• May not be applicable: Discrete variables may not be applicable in all situations. For example, some variables may not be easily categorized into distinct groups or may not be countable. 