stratification: defining and measuring social class


The Registrar General's scale

  • Used from 1911-2000
  • ranked thousands of jobs into six classes based on occupational skill of the head of household
  • has underpinned any studies (education and life expectancy)
  • Class I: Professional
  • Class II: lower managerial, professional and technical
  • Class IIINM: skilled non-manual
  • Class IIIM: skilled manual
  • Class IV: semi-skilled manual
  • Class V: Unskilled manual
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Issues with the Registrar Generals scale

  • assessment of jobs was made by own staff who tended to see non-manual occupations as higher status.
  • marxists- call centres are the new factories.
  • unemployed missed out (classed by previous job)- much bigger group now.
  • women were classes the same as husbands or fathers.
  • workers allocated to the same class often varied widely in pay and conditions.
  • no distinction between employed and self employed
  • 'black economy'
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The Hope-Goldthorpe scale

  • conducted in 1972, published in 1980
  • recognised the growth of middle-class occupations, especially the self employed
  • based his classification on market position (income but also economic life changes such as promotion prospects, sick pay and control of hours worked, employment relations such as authority over others)
  • acknowleged that manual and non-manual workers may share similar experiences of work- created an intermediate class
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Issues with the Hope-Goldthorpe scale

  • was still based on male ead of household which overlooked the significance of dual-career households.
  • ignores higher paid female partners and single women of every description (who were classed according to their ex-partners or fathers occupation)
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The Surrey Occupational Class Scheme

  • women are classified by own occupations.
  • the gendered nature of work in the contemporary UK is accounted for
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Issues with the Surrey Occupational Class Scheme

  • women tend to be more varied and change more often (part time, career breaks for children)
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  • a variation on the Hope-Goldthorpe scale
  • replaced the Registrar Generals scale. Based on:
  • employment relations (employers, self-employed or employed)
  • Market conditions (salary scale, promotion, sick pay, control over working hours etc)


  • some catagories contain both manual and non manual workers
  • there is a class for the long term unemployed (underclass)
  • women are also recognised
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Issues with NS-SEC

  • still based on occupation not perception of social class
  • those with great wealth who dont work arent included
  • still obscures differences in status and earning power
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Subjective measurements of social class

  • people dont always identify themselves as being in the same class as these scales (many teachers say they are working class)
  • those who identify themselves within the traditional three tier class system tend to have strong ideas about the characteristics of each class
  • these may not relate to the official scales which are based on occupation
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Issues with Subjective measurements of social clas

  • Reay states we should abondon large-scale quantitative analysis and use small-scale ethnographic studies of how class is 'lived' and experienced alongside gender and ethnicity.
  • Marshall found that 53% of their sample saw themselves as 'working class'.
  • Bradley says this is because people want to seem 'ordinary'
  • Savage: many identify themselves as middle class because its the 'loaded' of the options offered.
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