Measuring SES

Anusha Vable

Even though socioeconomic status (SES) is considered a fundamental cause of health and predicts nearly all health outcomes, we are still in the early days regarding measurement.

The below papers bring up important issues to consider when measuring SES. Oakes & Rossi 2003 explain why measurement is important and offer conceptual framework for measuring SES. Krieger et al. argue that SES should be measured at the individual, household, and neighborhood levels (they also recommend using the term “socioeconomic position” — I stick with SES because it is more common in the literature). Rehkopf et al., argue that violations of the consistency assumption are common when discussing SES, hampering causal inference and our ability to identify interventions to reduce health disparities. Vable et al., apply the conceptual framework suggested by Oakes & Rossi to data from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study and create and psychometrically validate 6 distinct SES constructs.

We are still in the early stages of measuring SES; as our knowledge base grows we can further refine these ideas and improve measurement.

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