A review of occupation-based social classifications for social survey research

Roxanne Connelly, Vernon Gayle, Paul Lambert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper is a review of issues associated with measuring occupations and using occupation-based socio-economic classifications in social science research. The review is orientated towards researchers who undertake secondary analysis of large-scale micro-level social science datasets. The paper begins with an outline of how to handle raw occupational information. This is followed by an introduction to the two main approaches to measuring occupations, and a third lesser known but intellectually innovative approach. The three approaches are social class schemes, social stratification scales and the microclass approach. International comparisons are briefly described and a discussion of intersectionality with other key variables such as age and gender is provided.

We are careful to emphasise that this paper does not advocate the uncritical adoption of any one particular occupation-based socio-economic measure over and above other alternatives. Rather we are advocating that researchers should choose from the portfolio of existing socio-economic measures in an informed and empirically defensible way and we strongly advocate undertaking sensitivity analyses. We conclude that researchers should always use existing socio-economic measures that have agreed upon and well documented standards. We strongly advise researchers not to develop their own measures without strong justification, nor to use existing measures in an un-prescribed or ad hoc manner.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMethodological Innovations Online
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2016


  • measuring occupations
  • social stratification
  • social classification
  • social class
  • microclass


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