Measuring Socioeconomic Status

6. How SES Should Be Measured

Exercise 4

This exercise asks the user to decide which measures are most appropriate in each of the examples.

Instructions:
For each of the following examples, decide which measure of SES would be most appropriate.  Some measures may be used more than once, and others may not be used at all.

Measures of SES:
Composite measure
Single proxy measure
Multiple proxy measure
Unclear/unknown

Examples:
Example A:  A researcher wishes to examine the relationship between diet and colon cancer.
Example B:  A state official is interested in designing a new program to improve mental health outcomes in her state.
Example C:  A researcher aims to provide a policy maker with a simple yet compelling data analysis about the relationship between SES and teen cigarette smoking.
Example D:  A researcher aims to assess the impact of social mobility over the life course on the risk of a heart attack at age 70.

Answers:
Example A:  A researcher wishes to examine the relationship between diet and colon cancer. [Multiple proxy measure] 
Using multiple measures to adjust for confounding by SES enhances the comparability of those with different diets.

Example B:  A state official is interested in designing a new program to improve mental health outcomes in her state.
[Single proxy measure]
Finding relationships with single proxy measures, such as household income, leads to potential policy interventions;  in this case it would be income.

Example C:  A researcher aims to provide a policy maker with a simple yet compelling data analysis about the relationship between SES and teen cigarette smoking.
[Single proxy measure]
A tabulation of teen smoking by parent’s educational attainment would clearly and simply suggest the relationship between SES and smoking.

Example D:  A researcher aims to assess the impact of social mobility over the life course on the risk of a heart attack at age 70.
[Unclear/unknown]
As of yet we do not know how to measure SES over the life course, which makes measuring social mobility very difficult.