Ratio Scale

When a scale consists not only of equidistant points but also has a meaningful zero point, then we refer to it as a ratio scale. If we ask respondents their ages, the difference between any two years would always be the same, and ‘zero’ signifies the absence of age or birth. Hence, a 100-year old person is indeed twice as old as a 50-year old one. Sales figures, quantities purchased and market share are all expressed on a ratio scale.

Ratio scales should be used to gather quantitative information, and we see them perhaps most commonly when respondents are asked for their age, income, years of participation, etc. In order to respect the notion of equal distance between adjacent points on the scale, you must make each category the same size. Therefore, if your first category is $0-$19,999, your second category must be $20,000-$39,999. Obviously, categories should never overlap and categories should follow a logical order, most often increasing in size.

Ratio scales are the most sophisticated of scales, since it incorporates all the characteristics of nominal, ordinal and interval scales. As a result, a large number of descriptive calculations are applicable.