Measuring Socioeconomic Status

5. How SES is Measured

Composite measures

Cambridge scale

The British Cambridge Social Interaction and Stratification Scale (CAMSIS) relies on patterns of social interaction to determine social structure and an individual’s position in it.  Distance among persons in the social structure is defined by similarities in lifestyles and resources that occupational groups share. As mentioned above, the clustering of social values and behaviors appears fundamental to all societies. In any case, the Cambridge Scale is technically a continuous measure that is often categorized into four to six ordinally ranked groups. The nice thing about the scale is it gives extra information about the clustering of social interactions. The downside is it relies heavily on occupational groups.

In the UK, the National Statistics Socioeconomic classification (NS-SEC) is now the primary (governmental) measure of SES. The NS-SES replaced the Registrar General’s Occupational Social Class (RGSC) scale in the year 2000. The NS-SES is similar to the an earlier scale called the Erikson-Goldthorpe scale. In short, the NS-SEC is a complex measure using several aspects of one’s job and employment relations to calculate a scalar measure of SES (or SEP). It is important to appreciate that the NS-SES is not a simple hierarchical scale. It is relational, which can make analyses complicated.  Only the grouping that collapses into 3 categories can be considered hierarchical.

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