Differences between Qualitative and Quantitative Data

By Mark Zegarelli

Data — the information used in statistics — can be either qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative data divides a data set (the pool of data that you’ve gathered) into discrete chunks based on a specific attribute. For example, in a class of students, qualitative data can include

  • Each child’s gender

  • His or her favorite color

  • Whether he or she owns at least one pet

  • How he or she gets to and from school

You can identify qualitative data by noticing that it links an attribute — that is, a quality — to each member of the data set. For example, four attributes of Emma are that she’s female, her favorite color is green, she owns a dog, and she walks to school.

On the other hand, quantitative data provides numerical information — that is, information about quantities, or amounts. For example, quantitative data on this same classroom of students can include the following:

  • Each child’s height in inches

  • Each child’s weight in pounds

  • The number of siblings each child has

  • The number of words each child spelled correctly on the most recent spelling test

You can identify quantitative data by noticing that it links a number to each member of the data set. For example, Carlos is 55 inches tall, weighs 68 pounds, has three siblings, and spelled 18 words correctly.