The Label Column on the SPSS Variable View Tab

By Keith McCormick, Jesus Salcedo, Aaron Poh

The name and the label of your variables in SPSS Statistics serve the same basic purpose: They’re descriptors that identify the variable. The difference is that the name is the short identifier and the label is the long one. You need one of each because some output formats work fine with a long identifier and other formats need the short form.

You can use just about anything for the label. What you choose has to do with how you expect to use your data and what you want your output to look like. For example, the variable name may be “Sex” and the longer label may be “Boys and Girls,” “Men and Women,” or simply “Gender.”

The length of the label isn’t determined by some sort of software requirement. However, output looks better if you use short names and somewhat longer labels. Each one should make sense standing alone. After you produce some output, you may find that your label is lousy for your purposes. That’s okay; it’s easy to change. Just pop back to the Variable View tab and make the change. The next time you produce output, the new label will be used.

You can also just skip defining a label. If you don’t have a label defined for a variable, SPSS will use the name you defined for everything.