Updating occupational prestige and socioeconomic scores

The historical background of the 2000 scale, the methodology for constructing the scores, some comparisons with other occupational scales, the 2000 scores themselves, and applications of the 2000 scores are presented.

Occupational status is one component of socioeconomic status (SES), summarizing the power, income and educational requirements associated with various positions in the occupational structure.

For example, professionals are differentiated from manual workers by selection on educational attainment that influences patterns of remuneration.

Occupational status is also likely to be a better indicator of income over the long term than is income information collected at any single point in time, because in the short-term, income can be quite volatile (Williams and Collins 1995).

Finally, occupational status is a promising measure of social position that can provide information about job characteristics, such as environmental and working conditions, decision-making latitude, and psychological demands of the job. Income and prestige gained from an occupation influence health-related behaviors, choice of community setting and social networks, as well as providing the funds to purchase medical care, healthy foods, and a safe living environment.

Merely inspecting the correlation between occupational status and health at one point in time may be misleading due to the problem of reverse causation; it is possible that instead of an individual's occupation having an impact on her health, the choice of a particular occupation may actually depend on or be constrained by existing health conditions.

Non-white workers are more likely than whites in the same occupation to be exposed to carcinogens or other damaging conditions at work, and are paid less for the same work even after work experience and educational attainment are taken into account (Krieger, Williams and Moss 1997).

back to top Finally, comparisons of occupational status measures across time and different populations can be problematic.

For example, existing measures are not likely to be sensitive to the dynamics of women in the workplace, including their choices about full- and part-time employment, employment interruptions in response to family constraints, and the interrelationship between a woman's and her spouse's occupational statuses (Gregorio, Walsh and Paturzo 1997). Worker's perceptions of how jobs affect health: A social ecological perspective.


Women also tend to be concentrated in a smaller number of occupations than men, and to be disproportionately represented in the low-paying positions with fewer opportunities for advancement (Mutchler and Poston 1983; Pugh and Moser 1990). Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 6(2):101-113.

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