The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use

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1 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use David Rose and David J Pevalin (with Karen O Reilly) Institute for Social and Economic Research University of Essex

2 Crown copyright 2005 Published with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty s Stationery Office (HMSO). This publication, excluding logos, may be reproduced free of charge, in any format or medium for research or private study subject to it being reproduced accurately and not used in a misleading context. The material must be acknowledged as crown copyright and the title of the publication specified. This publication can also be accessed at the National Statistics website: For any other use of this material please apply for a free Click-Use Licence on the Office of Public Sector Information website: or write to The Licensing Division, St Clements House, 2-16 Colegate, Norwich, NR3 1BQ Fax: or First published 2005 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS and 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY Companies and representatives throughout the world. PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprint of the Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martin s Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. Macmillan is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries. ISBN This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library A National Statistics publication National Statistics are produced to high professional standards as set out in the National Statistics Code of Practice. They are produced free from political influence. About the Office for National Statistics The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the government agency responsible for compiling, analysing and disseminating economic, social and demographic statistics about the United Kingdom. It also administers the statutory registration of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales. The Director of ONS is also the National Statistician and the Registrar General for England and Wales. About the Economic and Social Research Council The Economic and Social Research Council is the UK s leading research agency addressing economic and social concerns. The Council aims to provide high quality research on issues of importance to business, the public sector and government. The issues considered include economic competitiveness, the effectiveness of public services and policy, and our quality of life. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by government. For enquiries about this publication, contact The Editor, David Rose Tel: For general enquiries, contact the National Statistics Customer Contact Centre. Tel: (minicom: ) Fax: Post: Room 1015, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8XG You can also find National Statistics on the internet at Printed and bound in Great Britain by Ashford Colour Press Ltd, Gosport.

3 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use Contents Contents Page List of tables and figures List of abbreviations Preface and acknowledgements v vi vii 1. Introduction 1 2. Recommendations 5 3. Reasons for developing a new government socio-economic classification Why do we need SECs? Problems with the former SECs Criteria for assessing SECs The four phases of the Review The conceptual basis of the NS-SEC The Goldthorpe class schema Creating the NS-SEC Causal narratives The NS-SEC: structure, categories and related measurement issues The structure of the NS-SEC Categories and continuity The NS-SEC operational categories The NS-SEC analytic classes Measurement issues Maintaining the NS-SEC Creating and validating the NS-SEC Measuring employment relations Creating SOC2000 NS-SEC Continuity issues Phase 4 validation studies Conclusions 55 iii

4 Contents The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use Page Appendices Review Committee membership Continuity issues: SC, SEG and NS-SEC The SOC2000 NS-SEC derivation table: simplified and full methods, operational categories The SOC2000 NS-SEC derivation table: simplified and reduced methods, operational categories The SOC90 NS-SEC derivation table: simplified and full methods, operational categories The SOC90 NS-SEC derivation table: simplified and reduced methods, operational categories Employment relations questions on the LFS The concept of validity in relation to the Review 99 References 107 iv

5 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use List of tables and figures List of tables and figures Page List of tables Table 1 Social Class based on Occupation 8 Table 2 Socio-economic Group 9 Table 3 Social Class based on Occupation by NS-SEC operational version 24 Table 4 Socio-economic Group by NS-SEC operational version 25 Table 5 NS-SEC seven-class by sex 35 Table 6 NS-SEC eight-class by sex and nation, aged (Census 2001) 36 Table 7 Frequencies and percentages of NS-SEC seven-class by different methods (LFS 1996/97) 42 Table 8 Frequencies and percentages of the operational version of NS-SEC by different methods (LFS 1996/97) 42 Table 9 SOC2000 NS-SEC by SOC90 NS-SEC (SEC90) seven-class 52 List of figures Figure 1 The conceptual derivation of the NS-SEC 17 Figure 2 Categories of the operational version of the NS-SEC 23 Figure 3 The NS-SEC analytic classes: nine- or eight-class versions 35 Figure 4 NS-SEC operational categories and their relation to the main analytic class variables 38 Figure 5 Projected dominance rules for assigning household NS-SEC 41 v

6 List of abbrevations The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use List of abbreviations ESRC GHS HIH HRP LFS NS-SEC ONS OPCS OUG RGSC SC SEC SEC90 SEG SOC Economic and Social Research Council General Household Survey Highest income householder Household reference person Labour Force Survey National Statistics Socio-economic Classification Office for National Statistics Office of Population Censuses and Surveys Occupational Unit Group Registrar General s Social Class Social Class based on Occupation Socio-economic classification NS-SEC based on SOC90 Socio-economic Groups Standard Occupational Classification SOC90 Standard Occupational Classification 1990 SOC2000 Standard Occupational Classification 2000 SRS SSEC Service relationship score Simplified NS-SEC vi

7 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use Preface and acknowledgements Preface and acknowledgements Much has already been written, not least by us, concerning the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC). It might therefore be thought that another report constitutes overkill. However, there are two reasons why it was decided that this final report on the work of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Review of Government Social Classifications was necessary. First, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) required a comprehensive reference volume bringing together in one publication an account of the whole Review. As such, this report is designed as a companion volume to two others: National Statistics Socioeconomic Classification User Manual (ONS 2005) and A Researcher s Guide to the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (Rose and Pevalin 2003a). Second, our previous report (Rose and O Reilly 1998) presented the interim version of the NS-SEC, based on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) of 1990 (SOC90). Following the publication of that report, the SOC was substantially revised and so the NS-SEC had to be rebased on the new SOC of 2000 (SOC2000). No public account of either the full details of the final version of the NS-SEC or its final phase of development has previously been available. In essence, therefore, this report is a substantially revised and updated version of our 1998 report. Inevitably it reproduces some of the content of that earlier report, along with new material relating to the fourth and final phase of the Review. It also summarises some of the content of the two companion volumes. However, those requiring more details on issues such as the derivation of the NS-SEC will need to consult the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification User Manual. Similarly, full details of the NS-SEC validation studies are to be found in the Researcher s Guide. We wish to express our thanks to the Review Committee and all the other colleagues who assisted us with validation studies. We are especially grateful to David Lockwood, who chaired the Review, for his enthusiastic support and critical judgements. Equally, John Goldthorpe and Gordon Marshall gave generously of their knowledge and expertise and helped us to clarify many issues. Without the detailed knowledge of occupational classifications and information given to us by Peter Elias and Tessa Staples, our task would have been far harder. Jean Martin acted as the ONS link person for the Review and made crucial contributions to our research and deliberations. Finally, we wish to thank our colleagues in the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, especially Janice Webb, Jenifer Tucker, Kate Tucker, Lindsay Moses, Helen FitzGerald, Judi Egerton, Terry Tostevin, Jane Rooney, Mary Gentile, Jonathan Gershuny and Nick Buck. David Rose David J Pevalin Karen O Reilly March 2005 vii

8 Preface and acknowledgements The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use viii

9 Introduction Chapter 1

10 Chapter 1 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use 1.0 Purpose of this report. This report offers a comprehensive account of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Review of Government Social Classifications and thus of the development of the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC). Therefore, it presents not only the final recommendations of the Review Steering Committee (see membership in Appendix 1), but also discusses the reasons why the Review was established, provides an account of the conceptual basis and a full description of the NS-SEC and summarises the research undertaken to create and validate it together with a discussion of its use in research. In a previous report (Rose and O Reilly 1998), we discussed the interim version of the NS-SEC, based on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) of 1990 (SOC90). Here we present the final recommended version of the classification based on the new version of SOC, SOC2000 (ONS 2000a and b). 1.1 Structure of the report. In the rest of this chapter we outline the terms of reference of the Review, the aims of each of its four phases and the procedures that have been followed in each phase. Chapter 2 provides a summary of the various recommendations of the Review Committee. Chapter 3 sets out the principal reasons for developing a new government socio-economic classification (SEC). Chapter 4 discusses the conceptual basis of the NS-SEC. Chapter 5 describes the new classification in more detail and discusses various associated measurement issues. Finally, Chapter 6 summarises the research undertaken to create and validate the NS-SEC as a measure. The appendices provide further details. Appendix 2 shows the relationships between the categories of the NS-SEC and those of Social Class based on Occupation (SC) and Socio-economic Groups (SEG), the former government social classifications. Appendix 3 contains the matrix for creating the NS-SEC with SOC2000. Appendix 4 gives the matrix for the reduced and simplified versions of NS-SEC. Appendices 5 and 6 provide similar matrices for NS-SEC using SOC90. Appendix 7 gives details of the questions carried on the 1996/97 Labour Force Survey (LFS) in order to allocate occupational groups to categories of the NS-SEC. Finally, Appendix 8 discusses the background to our approach to validity issues. 1.2 Terms of reference (1). The ESRC Review of Government Social Classifications was established at the instigation of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS, now part of the Office for National Statistics, ONS) in October The Review had the following terms of reference: (1) to review the characteristics, use and perceptions of Social Class based on Occupation (SC) and Socioeconomic Groups (SEG); (2) to review existing alternative social classifications; (3) to propose recommendations for the revision of government social classifications; and (4) to assess the effectiveness of recommended revisions. 1.3 Terms of reference (2). The terms of reference were further elaborated at a meeting between the Review Committee and senior management of ONS. It was made clear that Phase 1 of the Review would be zero-based. Initially, therefore, the Review Committee had to indicate why government social classifications should continue to be produced. This was to be assessed by reference to issues such as who benefits from these government classifications and in what ways. Relevant evidence would include demonstrable direct or indirect benefits to national and local government policy-making and to policy-making in the private sector; the general value which social classifications bring to public statistics and understanding; and the effective use of government classifications in academic research. The remainder of the Review would only proceed if the continued need for government social classifications (or, from now on, socio-economic classifications SECs) could be demonstrated. (For our purposes, we make no distinction between the terms social classification and socio-economic classification : see Rose and Pevalin 2003c: Each is purely a descriptive term, but SEC was eventually preferred by ONS). 1.4 The four phases of the Review. The Review was conducted in four phases with aims as set out in the following paragraphs. A report on Phase 1 was produced in March 1995 (Rose 1995). An interim report on Phase 2 followed one year later (Rose 1996) and the full Phase 2 report was produced in April 1997 (Rose and O Reilly 1997a). An edited volume setting out the work of the Review in more detail (Rose and O Reilly 1997b) accompanied this. In 1998, a more substantial report was produced, containing our interim recommendations for the NS-SEC based on SOC90 and thus included full details of Phase 3 (Rose and O Reilly 1998). Phase 4, described for the first time here, led to the final recommended form of the NS-SEC. 1.5 The aims of Phase 1 were to establish: (1) whether there was a continuing need for government socio-economic classifications; (2) whether there was a need to revise or replace the existing classifications; (3) the criteria for assessing a revised or new classification; and (4) the work required to produce a revised or new classification. 2

11 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use Chapter The aims of Phase 2 were: (1) to undertake both the conceptual development and substantive research necessary for deriving a new occupationally-based socio-economic classification; (2) using a variety of relevant datasets, to produce, assess and test an interim version of the classification against both the current government socio-economic classifications and, where possible, existing alternative classifications; (3) to make recommendations to ONS Census Division on the implications of the Review for the design of the census enumeration form; (4) to create an information database on the 371 occupational unit groups (OUGs) of SOC90, one of the principal building blocks for SECs; and (5) to address the transitional arrangements which might be necessary in order to minimise the disruptive effects of introducing a new SEC. 1.7 The aims of Phase 3 were to continue the work of Phase 2 by: (1) analysing LFS data on employment relations and conditions at the OUG level of SOC90 in order to operationalise the new SEC; (2) producing a derivation matrix for the new SEC; (3) bridging the current ONS socio-economic classifications to the new SEC; (4) using a variety of datasets in order to undertake validation studies with the new classification; (5) writing a report on all of this work for ESRC and ONS; and (6) providing users of the new SEC with full details of its conceptual basis and construction. At the conclusion of Phase 3, ONS decided to name the new SEC the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification, NS-SEC. 1.8 The aims of Phase 4 were to consolidate and extend the work of Phase 3 through: (1) further specification of the NS-SEC in both conceptual and operational terms; (2) re-basing the NS-SEC on SOC2000; (3) new validation studies using SOC2000 NS-SEC. 1.9 Procedures in Phase 1. In order to meet its terms of reference, in Phase 1 the Committee invited written evidence from a wide range of organisations central government departments, local authority associations and representatives, government agencies, employers and employees associations, market research organisations as well as from learned societies and individual experts in academia and elsewhere. In addition, the Committee organised meetings with central government users and with academic users and classification experts (see Rose 1995 and 1997). The report on Phase 1 first demonstrated a continuing need for government SECs (see and Rose 1995:2 6); second, it indicated the weaknesses of the existing classifications and developed arguments for replacing them (see and Rose 1995:6 7); and, third, it indicated the criteria for assessing a new classification (see and Chapter 6; see also Rose 1995:10 12 and 16). The report also set out the development work required to produce a new classification (Rose 1995:12 17) Procedures in Phase 2. In line with the recommendations of Phase 1, the Committee created a sub-group to produce a single classification with a clear conceptual rationale, improved population coverage and the necessary associated operational and maintenance rules. Data were collected from three National Statistics Omnibus Surveys in order to undertake preliminary validation of an initial version of the proposed classification. These data were analysed by members of the committee and its various consultants and a book was produced detailing our conclusions (see and Rose and O Reilly 1997b; c.f. O Reilly and Rose 1998c). In addition, as a resource for Phase 3, data on occupations from the 1991 Census and from various government surveys were brought together into a database on the 371 OUGs of SOC90 (see McKnight and Elias 1997). An interim report on Phase 2 was submitted to ONS and it was agreed that a third phase of the review should use specially collected employment relations data from the LFS in order to operationalise a SOC90-based version of the new classification Procedures in Phase 3. Phase 3 involved the analysis of LFS data on employment relations in order to produce a number of potential operational versions of the new SEC for testing. This eventually led to the creation of the interim NS- SEC in its various recommended forms, depending on the quality and extent of employment data available to analysts (see and Rose and O Reilly 1998). This was followed by a series of validation studies (see ). In the process, we produced the necessary matrices incorporating the operational 3

12 Chapter 1 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use rules for the different versions of the interim NS-SEC. We also addressed the issue of continuity between SC, SEG and the NS- SEC (see Rose and O Reilly ibid.) Procedures in Phase 4. Having created an interim SOC90- based NS-SEC, we were then faced with the task of re-basing it on SOC2000. This final phase also offered an opportunity to refine the classification in various ways (see ). These refinements were partly induced by the structure of SOC2000, as we explain in Chapters 5 and 6. However, other changes from the Phase 3 interim version were the result of further reflections on the operationalisation of the conceptual base of NS-SEC. In addition, we considered a range of new information on the employment relations of various occupations, some of which were then re-assigned within the NS-SEC. The final version of the NS-SEC is presented in Chapter 5. The results of some of our validation work on the final version are discussed in the final part of Chapter 6. Further details of the validation studies may be found elsewhere (Rose and Pevalin 2003a). In Chapter 4 we offer some advice on the use of the NS-SEC (and c.f. Rose and Pevalin 2003c:36 40). We also assisted ONS in the production of the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification User Manual (ONS 2005, and also available at The user manual should be consulted for further detailed information relating to the procedures for creating and deriving the NS- SEC. 4

13 Recommendations Chapter 2

14 Chapter 2 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use 2.0 Here we present all the principal recommendations arising from the four phases of the Review. 2.1 Recommendation 1. Because of the widespread demand from users in government, local authorities, academia and the private sector, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) should continue to produce and maintain socio-economic classifications (SECs). 2.2 Recommendation 2. Given their recognised conceptual and operational deficiencies, Social Class based on Occupation (SC) and Socio-economic Groups (SEG) should be replaced by a single National Statistics Socio-economic Classification, or NS-SEC, based conceptually on an employment relations approach, and uniting the most important features and advantages of SC and SEG. The NS-SEC should have hierarchical or nested properties, that is, it should have an operational version that acts both as a bridge between SC, SEG and the NS-SEC and which can be collapsed in a variety of ways into a smaller number of categories for analytic purposes. Since SEG is closer than SC to a measure of employment relations and conditions, the NS-SEC should, in its operational version, be as similar as possible to the current SEG. In its collapsed version it should resemble SC. 2.6 Recommendation 6. Data on employment relations and conditions at the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) occupational unit group-level (OUG) should be collected intercensally for the continued validation, maintenance and revision of the NS-SEC. This exercise should ensue any revision of SOC. Attention should also be paid to the possibility of deriving the classification from evidence provided by a sampling and analysis of employment contracts. 2.7 Recommendation 7. The Committee recommends that future revisions of both NS-SEC and SOC should be more closely integrated. 2.3 Recommendation 3. A number of other recommendations are integral to recommendations 1 and 2. First, in order to improve population coverage, and in response to user demand, it is important to include as many as possible of those not in paid employment within the NS-SEC. The Committee therefore recommends that all individuals not currently in paid employment be classified by reference to their last main job. It may be necessary for some purposes to have a special NS-SEC category for the never worked and the long-term unemployed. The Committee therefore recommends that such a category be allowed for in the operational version of the NS- SEC. 2.4 Recommendation 4. It is also recommended that terms such as manual and non-manual and all references to skill be avoided in naming and describing the categories of the NS- SEC. References to skill are inappropriate to the conceptual base of the NS-SEC; and the manual/non-manual divide is simply not a meaningful distinction given the nature of work and occupations in 21st-century market economies. 2.5 Recommendation 5. Users should note the theoretical and thus the measurement principles of the NS-SEC. Like SEG, the NS-SEC is a nominal measure rather than, as with SC, an ordinal one. Ordinality with respect to particular outcome measures should not therefore be assumed and analyses should be performed by assuming nominality. 6

15 Reasons for developing a new government socio-economic classification Chapter 3

16 Chapter 3 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use Introduction 3.0 Here we discuss the first term of reference, our review of the characteristics, use and perceptions of Social Class based on Occupation (SC) and Socio-economic Groups (SEG). Evidence arising from Phases 1 and 2 of the Review (covering both the research and other sources on which we based recommendations 1 and 2) has been discussed in previous reports and publications (Rose 1995 and 1996; Rose and O Reilly, 1997a and b). Here we simply reiterate the most salient issues. Why do we need SECs? 3.1 Why do we need SECs?. Before we begin summarising the evidence in support of our recommendations for the replacement of SC and SEG, a brief consideration of the history and principal uses of government socio-economic classifications (SECs) is necessary. This short excursus will help to explain both why official SECs are still needed and why SC and SEG fell short of what is ideally required of an effective SEC. 3.2 Researching health inequalities (1). As Fitzpatrick (2003: 173) has noted: (M)easuring and monitoring socio-economic differentials in mortality and other health inequalities in the UK has been a key part of the work of the office responsible for the registration of deaths since the establishment of the General Register Office (GRO) in The GRO has since been subsumed within the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and it is now ONS that carries on the tradition of reporting on health variations today. This role continues to be of major importance as health inequalities are as much a public health issue today as they were over 150 years ago, when the GRO was set up. 3.3 Researching health inequalities (2). The earliest analyses of mortality differences were undertaken by reference to occupation and industry. However, from the beginning of the 20th century, the development of SC gave a clearer framework for identifying and understanding health differentials within the population. It was demonstrated that there was a class gradient in health in particular in mortality rates and despite the creation of the National Health Service in 1948, class inequalities in health and life expectancy have persisted. Overall, those in partly skilled and unskilled occupations in SC Classes IV and V had far higher mortality rates and lower life expectancy than those in professional and managerial occupations in Classes I and II. 3.4 Researching health inequalities (3). These inequalities are of continuing concern. The UK Department of Health Green Paper, Our Healthier Nation, and the subsequent White Paper Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, each acknowledged that health inequalities in the 1990s were actually widening and that the poorest in our society are hit harder than the well off by most of the major causes of death. The Department also gave a firm commitment not only to improve the health of the population as a whole, but specifically to improve the health of the worst off in society and to narrow the health gap. This national pledge complements the aims of the European Health For All Strategy, to which the UK fully subscribed. This made Equity in Health its first target specifically that by the Year 2000 the differences in health status between countries and between groups within countries should be reduced by at least 25 per cent by improving the level of health of disadvantaged nations and groups. Most recently, these concerns have been reiterated in a report by Derek Wanless to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Health and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Wanless 2004). 3.5 Researching health inequalities (4). As Fitzpatrick remarks: Quantifying the absolute and relative differences in people s health within a population is a prerequisite for developing appropriate strategies to address them Identifying and measuring health inequalities is essential for monitoring public health, for planning and targeting health care services and the distribution of resources, for identifying new and emerging health problems, for assisting in the discovery of causal factors, and for formulating and developing effective health service policies (ibid:174). In all these respects, the SC in particular played a key role. It was devised by T H C Stevenson (1928) and the first published reference appears in the 74th Annual Report of the Registrar General for 1911, issued in From that time it was integral to the analysis of health inequalities and policies designed to tackle them. The original classes of SC comprised groupings of occupations and, in some cases, industries. The final version of SC is given in Table 1. Table 1 Social Class based on Occupation I II III (N) (M) IV V Professional, etc, occupations Managerial and technical occupations Skilled occupations Non-manual Manual Partly skilled occupations Unskilled occupations The occupation groups included in each of these categories were selected in such a way as to bring together, as far as possible, people with similar levels of occupational skill. In general, each occupation group was assigned as a whole to one or other social class and no account was taken of differences between individuals in the same occupation group, for example, differences in education. However, for persons having the employment status of foreman or manager the following additional rules applied: (a) each occupation was given a basic social class; (b) persons of foreman status whose basic social class was IV or V were allocated to Social Class III; (c) persons of manager status were allocated to Social Class II with certain exceptions. 8

17 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use Chapter Uses of SC. The GRO itself was thus the initial user of the SC and continued as a major user, as in turn did its successors the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) and ONS. The Scottish GRO was also an important government user. Apart from its use in census reports, decennial supplements, the 1 per cent Longitudinal Study of the Census, and analyses of health inequalities, mortality and fertility, SC was also featured in most of ONS s major social survey reports. Other major users included the Departments of Health; Work and Pensions; Education and Skills; and Environment and the Regions, and the Northern Ireland Office s Policy Planning and Research Unit. SC was also used in many academic studies. Not surprisingly, given its origins, its use was particularly widespread in research on health and mortality (see, for example, Donkin, Goldblatt and Lynch 2002; White et al 2003; Goldblatt 1989; Power et al 1991; Fox and Benzeval 1995; Benzeval et al 1995; Bosma et al 1997; Davey-Smith et al 1997; Manor et al 1997; Davey-Smith et al 1998) and in demography (see Benjamin 1989; Diamond 1989; Murphy 1989; Coleman and Salt 1992). However, for a variety of reasons, academics in disciplines other than health studies and demography have used alternatives to the SC. 3.7 Alternatives to SC. Some choices of alternatives to the SC were no doubt purely contingent and/or conventional, especially in government, but others reflected dissatisfaction with the SC on theoretical, conceptual and technical grounds. This led some researchers (even in health studies) to seek other socio-economic indicators for their analyses (for example, Goldblatt and Fox 1978; Goldblatt 1990; Osborn and Morris 1989). Meanwhile in sociology, where social class is such a crucial explanatory concept, alternative class schemata and occupational scales were derived on what are regarded as more satisfactory theoretical foundations. These alternatives have been reviewed in previous reports (see Rose 1995:9 10 and 38 39; Rose and O Reilly 1997b:Ch.1). 3.8 SEG. One alternative to SC was the second of the UK government SECs. In 1951 a new classification was introduced alongside SC: Socio-economic Groups (SEG see Table 2). In their original form, the SEGs were defined so as to preserve the (then) five social classes. The 1951 SEGs were only used for fertility analyses and did not survive in their initial form for long. In 1960 they were revised to conform to European requirements and the relationship between SC and SEG was lost (see Boston 1984:Ch.3). Although much less discussed in the literature than SC, SEG was a more social scientific measure, one that spoke theory without knowing it. In particular, SEG had an operational requirement to take into account employment status and size of employing organisation as well as occupation. In that sense it came closer than SC to sociological measures of social class such as the Goldthorpe schema (see Chapter 4). When we note that SEG was proposed by a social scientist with an interest in social mobility, David Glass, we can see why this might be the case. Table 2 Socio-economic Group Classification by Socio-economic Group (SEG) was introduced in 1951 and extensively amended in The classification aimed to bring together people with jobs of similar social and economic status. The allocation of occupied persons to SEG was determined by considering their employment status and occupation (and industry, though for practical purposes no direct reference was made since it was possible in Great Britain to use classification by occupation as a means of distinguishing effectively those engaged in agriculture). (1.1) Employers in industry, commerce, etc (large establishments) (1.2) Managers in central and local government, industry, commerce, etc (large establishments) (2.1) Employers in industry, commerce, etc (small establishments) (2.2) Managers in industry, commerce, etc (small establishments) (3) Professional workers self-employed (4) Professional workers employees (5.1) Intermediate non-manual workers ancillary works and artists (5.2) Intermediate non-manual workers foremen and supervisors non-manual (6) Junior non-manual workers (7) Personal service workers (8) Foremen and supervisors manual (9) Skilled manual workers (10) Semi-skilled manual workers (11) Unskilled manual workers (12) Own-account workers (other than professional) (13) Farmers employers and managers (14) Farmers own account (15) Agricultural workers (16) Members of armed forces (17) Inadequately described and not stated occupations 3.9 Uses of SEG. SEG was also extensively used in ONS and government departments and, in modified form, was preferred to SC for General Household Survey (GHS) analyses and reports. It was also employed in many academic studies, although, because there were no rules to guide researchers, it was collapsed to an analytic variable in several different ways. However, some academics preferred SEG precisely because they perceived it as closer to a sociological conception of class than SC. For example, Heath (1995) has noted that, in political analysis, the predictive power of SC was not impressive when compared with either Goldthorpe s class schema or SEG. When collapsed into fewer categories, SEG showed much better systematic and theoretically intelligible variation than SC (for example, own-account workers are distinctive in attitudes and 9

18 Chapter 3 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use behaviour from employees in the same occupations, a fact that is comprehensible). Similarly, in reporting results of analyses of British Household Panel Study data conducted for the Rowntree Inquiry into Income and Wealth, Hamnett (1995) observed that collapsed-seg was a good predictor of housing value (see Rose 1997) Need for government SECs. Given their long history and widespread use, it is not surprising that the evidence gathered in Phase 1 demonstrated complete unanimity across central and local government, academia and the private sector that government SECs remained important and necessary analytic tools. Central government departments need them because they provide convenient summaries of complex data relevant to the analysis of social variation and thus to policy formulation, targeting and evaluation, as well as needs assessment. The many area classifications and indices of deprivation used by government departments in determining resource allocation include elements of the classifications. The classifications are also essential for monitoring the health of the population, as we have seen. In the private sector official classifications are a vital element in the creation of area classifications by companies in the market analysis field (see Dugmore 1995). Moreover, the Institute for Practitioners in Advertising s Social Grade schema used in market research and now maintained by the Market Research Society (with categories A, B, C1, C2, D and E see MRS 2003) was itself based on SC. Academic researchers need the classifications for scientific analyses, especially in health, medical, geographic and demographic research. As a further indication of the importance of the classifications to users, they were featured by request in more than Census tabulations. For both government departments and academic users, the long time-series provided by SC in particular was of great value both in the interpretation of social trends and in policy evaluation. For this reason, as demonstrated later, the Review Committee took seriously the issue of continuity between the NS-SEC and both SC and SEG (see Heath et al 2003) Providing an authoritative standard. Finally, not least among the advantages of producing a standard official SEC is that this leaves government in control of definitions and hence of the information that must be collected in order to produce classifications. Since ONS is the main collector and processor of the building block information, it is only sensible that ONS should also determine how data are classified and thereby provide an approved standard for use in all government departments Continued need for occupationally-based SECs. Although critical of both SC and SEG, the Review Committee noted that for both pragmatic and theoretical reasons, occupationally based classifications would continue to remain vital tools for scientific and policy analyses for the foreseeable future. Pragmatically, they are based on routinely and widely collected data and, theoretically, it remains the case that a person s employment situation is a key determinant of life chances (see Chapter 4). Problems with the former SECs 3.13 (1) Social Class based on Occupation. The limitations of a classification that remained substantially unchanged for 80 years are, not surprisingly, legion. SC was correctly described by Marsh (1986a and b) as an intuitive or a priori scale. Especially when we consider that it was created in the context of a 19th century debate between eugenicists and environmentalists, and thus in a time before serious theoretical social science had emerged in Britain (see Szreter 1984), it is not surprising that the SC was considered inadequate by many academic researchers Criticisms of SC. A plethora of articles and book chapters have appeared in the last 25 years calling attention to the problems of SC (see Rose 1994 for more details). Many writers criticised it because they claimed, with Marsh, that it had no coherent theoretical basis. As Thomas (1990) conceded, even the champions of its empirical usefulness agreed on this. Others have demonstrated that what conceptual basis it did have a hierarchy in relation to social standing or occupational skill in fact reflected an outmoded 19th century view of social structure, which can be traced directly to eugenicist ideas (see Szreter 1984; Donnelly 1997) Validity of SC. Even when judged in its own terms, questions were raised regarding the validity and reliability of the SC. For example, Bland (1979) provided cogent evidence that any claim that the SC related to social standing could not be justified. This judgement was also shown to apply to the post-1980 claims that the schema related to a hierarchy of occupational skill (see Gallie 1995). As Thomas argued (1990: 28), those responsible for periodic revision of SC have to make explicit or implicit judgements about the relative position of occupations on the underlying continuum whatever that is considered to be (emphasis added) (2) Socio-economic Groups. The problems that arose with SEG were somewhat different from those of SC. As we have seen, for many sociologists, SEG was regarded as a better measure than SC for social scientific purposes (for example, 10

19 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use Chapter 3 Hamnett 1995; Heath 1995; Rose 1997). Its 17 groups could be collapsed to produce a schema not dissimilar from that proposed by Goldthorpe (1980) and his associates for their studies of social mobility and class structure. Unfortunately, however, there was no explanation available of the conceptual basis of SEG; and there were no rules to guide researchers on how SEGs might best be collapsed for analysis, hence the many and varied (and often incoherent) ways in which this was done. Like SC, it also relied on outmoded distinctions skill and the manual/non-manual divide. Partly as a consequence of this, it reflected women s positions in the social structure very inadequately, with the heterogeneous SEGs 6 and 7 (respectively junior non-manual workers and personal service workers) being particularly responsible for this. Finally, in terms of its derivation matrix, the logic of the allocation of combinations of OUGs/employment statuses to SEG seemed especially complex and opaque (3) Conceptual rationale. Of greatest concern to the Review Committee was the conceptual weakness of the former SECs. The claim that both SC and SEG lacked a clear conceptual rationale was long-standing, had never been denied and had never been properly addressed by OPCS and its predecessors. We suspect the reason why this particular criticism was disregarded for so long was that, until recently, it had been made almost exclusively by socio-economic classification experts rather than by users of the SECs. Government departments do not explicitly deal in theories of society and therefore are unlikely to demand a clearer conceptual basis, especially if they see SECs merely as pragmatic tools for the reduction and summarisation of complex data. Other users were content to use the SECs without fully appreciating the conceptual issues, even though they might want to ask interesting social scientific questions about the patterns revealed by their results. From the ONS viewpoint, however, the lack of a conceptual rationale for SC and SEG, and thus of clear allocation rules relating to the derivation matrices, made them increasingly difficult to maintain Why a conceptual rationale? We believe that those who use SECs in research, and even the more pragmatic users, should be concerned to know what it is that government classifications are supposed to be measuring so that they can (a) use them correctly; (b) improve their explanation of results; (c) investigate whether the classifications are valid; and (d) maintain and revise them over time. How can we say, for example, what the mortality patterns revealed by SC mean, if we are not clear what SC is measuring? This is no academic quibble. The lack of a clear conceptual rationale has important consequences in limiting the scope for influencing policy. If we do not understand the causal pathways that lead to the regular patterns revealed by research (that is, the processes that generate empirical regularities) then it is not apparent how recommendations can be provided on relevant policy actions to address these persistent variations. Examples include the difficulties encountered in setting targets for reducing health variations that can be linked to achievable policies and, more generally, in developing policies to target deprived groups (such as the partly skilled and unskilled occupations in Social Classes IV and V and those who are involuntarily excluded from the labour force). Of course, we are not suggesting that having a clear conceptual rationale for an SEC removes all the barriers to explaining what class differences mean. Not everything can be explained by what an SEC measures directly and employment is not the only determinant of life chances. However, a properly constructed and validated SEC will remove at least one barrier to explanation when compared to the previous situation. Moreover, we suspect that much of the dissatisfaction with the former classifications discussed earlier was directly related to the failure to provide a clear rationale and all that flowed from this conceptual void, such as how and in what circumstances to use and maintain particular classifications and for what purposes. For these reasons, the Review Committee was convinced that its first concern in Phase 2 had to be with the conceptual rationale for a new classification. We return both to this issue and to others raised in this paragraph in Chapter 4. Criteria for assessing SECs 3.19 Criteria for assessing classifications (1). Precisely because of the need to produce a conceptually sound, reliable and valid measure, throughout the Review we were mindful of the theoretical and methodological issues noted in past discussions of SECs. For example, Fox (1981) posed a series of questions in a paper on alternative measures of social class. He observed that answers to these questions are necessary to the selection of appropriate SECs for particular tasks: To what purpose is the classification to be put? How easily available is the relevant information? To what population is the classification to be applied? How much time and money would it take to build and apply the classification? How much discrimination is obtained by applying different classifications? How much mobility is measured through the different classifications? 11

20 Chapter 3 The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification: Origins, Development and Use 3.20 Criteria for assessing classifications (2). Goldthorpe (1988) similarly suggested criteria for the critical evaluation of SECs. These criteria are: Theoretical derivation: how explicitly and coherently is the classification or scale related to theoretical ideas? Technical derivation: how explicit and replicable is the method through which the classification is produced or scale values determined? Capacity to display variation: how well does the classification or scale identify and display variation in dependent variables, the relationship of which to class or status is of interest? Analytic transparency: how well does the classification or scale, at the same time as displaying variation, help the analyst to see further just how associations or correlations are being brought about? The four phases of the Review (4) the creation of a new matrix relating SOC90 OUGs and employment statuses to the categories of the NS-SEC (see Rose and O Reilly ibid.: Appendix 5); (5) validation studies of the interim (SOC90) version of the NS-SEC (see Rose and O Reilly ibid.: section 5); and (6) bridging and continuity between SC, SEG and NS-SEC (Rose and O Reilly ibid.: section 3) Phase 4. Essentially, Phase 4 involved repeating projects 4 6 above in relation to the new SOC, SOC2000. The results of this work are discussed in Chapters 5 and 6. This led to the production of the final form of the NS-SEC. In the following chapters of this report we reiterate the conceptual model that underpins the NS-SEC (Chapter 4). This discussion will render more intelligible the description of the NS-SEC and our various comments on measurement issues in Chapter 5. Finally, Chapter 6 provides an account of how the NS-SEC was developed and validated Phase 1 recommendations. In light of all the above evidence, the Phase 1 report (Rose 1995) argued the need for a single, occupationally-based SEC to replace the former SECs (that is, in similar manner to SC and SEG, an SEC based operationally on the Standard Occupational Classification, SOC). The new SEC would also require a clear conceptual rationale and therefore be capable of validation both initially and in the future. That is, it was necessary to be clear about what a new SEC was measuring and how in the future to allocate occupations to it as occupational classifications change and as society and the labour market change. Finally, the Phase 1 report also noted that any new SEC should be hierarchical in the sense that a larger number of nominal categories (property of SEG) could be collapsed into a smaller number of categories for analytic purposes (property of SC) Phases 2 and 3. In order to achieve our ultimate objectives, Phases 2 and 3 involved six inter-related projects as discussed in previous reports: (1) advice to ONS on the census design requirements of the SEC (discussed in Rose and O Reilly 1998: Appendix 3); (2) the establishment of a conceptual basis, operational rules and other required properties for the new SEC (Rose and O Reilly, ibid.: sections 3 and 4); (3) as a research resource to the Review, the creation of a database on the 371 OUGs of SOC90, one of the principal building blocks for SECs (see McKnight and Elias 1997); 12

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