What is a ceiling effect?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The term "ceiling effect" has two different meanings in social science research.

First, a ceiling effect is seen when an independent variable no longer affects a dependent variable after the independent variable reaches some particular level.  As an example, let's say that the richer a person becomes, the more likely he or she is to be a Republican.  But let's also say that once the person's wealth (the independent variable) reaches a certain level, getting more money (increase in the independent variable) does not make the person more likely to be a Republican (no more effect on the dependent variable.

Second, "ceiling effect" can refer to studies in which a variable is not measured above a certain level.  For example, a survey of how much money people make might have a last category for $1 million per year and up.  This is a ceiling effect because the variable (income) is no longer measured past the $1 million per year level.

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