Bogardus Social Distance scale

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Bogardus Social Distance scale

Emory S. Bogardus created the Bogardus social distance scale to measure people’s willingness to participate in a varying level of closeness with other social, racial, and ethnic groups. It is a psychological testing scale used for social research.

− Bogardus first used the scale in 1925, then again in 1946, 1956, and lastly in 1966. The result showed a decrease in the level of social distance in the US.
− The research was again performed in 2005. The result carried out by displaying a steady decline in the mean level of social distance and distinctions between groups.

A Bogardus social distance scale is one-dimensional. This means that only one group or community can be the center of the survey at a time. The intimacy or hostility of the responders towards only one social group could be measured using one Bogardus social distance scale.

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Bogardus Social Distance scale 19 1

Characteristics of Bogardus Social Distance scale

1. Social Distance: For Bogardus, social distance is a means to understand the distance between the members of two different groups. It tells how much or how little the members of each group sympathize with one another.

2. Cumulative Nature: A Bogardus social distance scale is also a cumulative scale or a Guttman scale. This implies that any agreement with a statement given as a choice is an agreement with the preceding statements from the list of options.
For instance, if you agree with the statement rating 1.0, then it is under the assumption that you agree with the following statements as well.

3. 7-Point scale: A 7-point scale is a suitable choice to measure the level of sympathy or hostility between the members of two social groups. Collaboration between the natures of both scales may provide a simpler question pattern and help the audience respond better.

For example, the 1.0 rating in a Bogardus social distance scale can indicate the low rank in a 7-point scale, meaning, less social distance. While 5.0 rating on a Bogardus scale can indicate a high rank on a 7-point scale, meaning higher social distance.

Example of Bogardus Social Distance scale

A Bogardus Social Distance scale is a composition of several questions regarding an ethnic or racial group. These questions are given to the responders to ask the degree of intimacy they feel towards the group in question. For example, the following questions are asked beginning with
low social distance and ending with high social distance.

● Willing to marry a member of the group?
● Willing to have a member of the group as your close friend?
● Willing to have this member as your neighbor?
● Willing to have this member as your colleague at work?
● Willing to have this member as a citizen of your country?
● Willing to have this member as a visitor in your county? (Non-citizen)
● Willing to have this member excluded from associating with your country?

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When to use Bogardus Social Distance scale?

The scale is one of the oldest psychological attitude scales. It has been used for understanding the variables like religious distance, socio-economic status, etc. In a more traditional usage of the scale, it was used to understand the distinction between communities, especially the feeling of distance towards immigrants.

For instance, when Bogardus conducted the survey the result was such that the social distance between the Canadian immigrants and the US citizen was low. In contrast, the social distance between Hindus, and Muslims, and US citizens were higher. The study concluded that Americans were comfortable enough to marry the Canadians. Whereas, people from a religious group of Hindu and Muslim were not so easily welcomed in the US.

In modern usage, Bogardus social distance scale is used to measure the social distance between current employees of a company and the newly appointed employees. It can help you understand how welcomed or alienated the new employee would feel in the office. You can use the scale by asking questions such as: 
− Would you be willing to have the new employee on your team? 1.0
− Would you be willing to exclude the new employee from the same floor? 5.0

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Bogardus Social Distance scale 18 1

Advantages of a Bogardus Social Distance scale

1. Easy use: The questionnaire is easy to prepare and administer. It is simple for the respondents to navigate through the options as well.

2. Prejudice: It can measure the underlying feelings, such as empathy, intimacy, or hostility that is separating or uniting two different social groups. This is the reason why it plays a key role in social research practices.

3. Order: The options of feelings are arranged in a rank ranging from low to high degree of social distance. This also helps establish the preference of each group in order.

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Disadvantage of Bogardus Social Distance scale

1. Validity: Since the ordering of the statements is based on the preference of individual members, it may not have the same meaning for each respondent of the group.

2. One-dimensional: as mentioned above, the scale can only measure the degree of social distance one group feels toward the group in question. Moreover, there is no possible way to gather the reason behind each response.
For example, a respondent may have a history with a member of the other group. Thus, the respondent may respond to the different statements with different responses.

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