Development and initial testing of a new socioeconomic status measure based on housing data

J Urban Health. 2011 Oct;88(5):933-44. doi: 10.1007/s11524-011-9572-7.


Socioeconomic status (SES) has been associated with many health outcomes. Commonly used datasets such as medical records often lack data on SES but do include address information. The authors sought to determine whether an SES measure derived from housing characteristics is associated with other SES measures and outcomes known to be associated with SES. The data come from a telephone survey of parents/guardians of children aged 1-17 years who resided in Olmsted County, Minnesota, and Jackson County, Missouri. Seven variables related to housing and six neighborhood characteristics obtained from local government assessor's offices in Olmsted County, Minnesota, were appended to survey responses. An SES index derived from housing characteristics (hereafter, HOUSES) was constructed using principal components factor analysis. For criterion validity, we assessed Pearson's correlation coefficients between HOUSES and other SES measures, including self-reported parents' educational levels, income, Hollingshead Index, and Nakao-Treas Index. For construct validity, we determined the association between HOUSES and outcomes, risks of low birth weight, overweight, and smoking exposure at home. We applied HOUSES to subjects in another community by formulating HOUSES from housing data of subjects in Jackson County, Missouri, using the same statistical algorithm as HOUSES for subjects in Olmsted County, Minnesota. We found that HOUSES had modest to good correlation with other SES measures. Overall, as hypothesized, HOUSES was inversely associated with outcome measures assessed among subjects from both counties. HOUSES may be a useful surrogate measure of individual SES in epidemiologic research, especially when SES measures for individuals are not available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Housing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Social Class*