Socioeconomic inequality and psychopathology: are socioeconomic status and social class interchangeable?

Soc Sci Med. 1997 Aug;45(3):399-410. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(96)00355-3.


Two different ways of conceptualizing and measuring socioeconomic inequality (SEI) are described and contrasted: the commonly used socioeconomic status (SES) measures and a neo-Marxist measure of social class. It is argued that SES and social class stem from two different theoretical orientations towards socioeconomic inequality and that they focus on different aspects of inequality. These differences have implications for the role of SEI in relation to psychopathology. Using data from a large scale epidemiological survey that was conducted in Israel, it is shown that SES and social class measures are empirically distinct and that they explain different parts of the variance of psychopathology. It is concluded that since social class is theoretically as well as empirically distinct from SES, it has potential for contributing to our understanding of psychopathological phenomenon.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Internal-External Control
  • Israel / epidemiology
  • Jews / psychology*
  • Jews / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / economics*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Psychopathology
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*