Rewriting the SES: demographic patterns and divorcing families

Soc Sci Med. 1986;23(2):211-22. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(86)90368-0.


Socioeconomic data are frequently included in health studies as indicators of social class. These data are used to measure the relationship between the behavior patterns, lifestyles and environments assumed to be associated with class and the topic under study. However, formulas currently used to calculate SES obscure rather than identify class position. This paper examines the Hollingshead SES score, comparing its view of the economic system with recent studies of the labor hierarchy of the United States. An alternative method for analysis and a socioeconomic scaling system which approximates class divisions within the United States today is then offered. A test case, using data from a study on divorcing families, is also presented to illustrate the kinds of information available through the alternative scaling system and show a comparison with the Hollingshead scale.

MeSH terms

  • Demography*
  • Divorce*
  • Educational Status
  • Family Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Occupations
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States