Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

New Zealand Socio-Economic Index 2006 (NZSEI-06): An Introduction for Social Science Researchers

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

New Zealand Socio-Economic Index 2006 (NZSEI-06): An Introduction for Social Science Researchers

Article excerpt

Abstract

This report introduces the NZSEI-06, an occupation-based measure of socio-economic status derived using data from the 2006 New Zealand Census. The NZSEI-06 can be used both as a continuous scale (from 10, low SES, to 90, high SES) and as a categorical grouping of occupations, and is applicable to both full- and part-time workers and the self-employed. The algorithm used to derive NZSEI-06 scores is based on the "returns to human capital" model of social stratification, in which occupation is viewed as the means by which human capital (education) is converted into material rewards (income). Initial assessments of the scale suggest that it classifies occupations similarly to its predecessor (the NZSEI-96) and also similarly to an Australian occupation-based SES scale, the AUSEI-06. The NZSEI-06 also validates well against a number of health and socio-economic correlates for both sexes and also for also for four major ethnic groups: European and Other (including New Zealander), Maori, Pacific, and Asian. As a measure of individual SES, the NZSEI-06 requires only occupational data for its classification, and so can be readily applied to administrative datasets and social surveys. Moreover, 'imputed' NZSEI-06 scores appear suitable for the classification of those outside of the workforce. Thus, the NZSEI-06 is likely to be a useful addition to the toolbox of researchers wishing to assess and understand the impact of SES on a range of outcomes.

Introduction

This report describes an updated version of the New Zealand Socio-economic Index, the NZSEI-06. The NZSEI-06 is an occupation-based measure of socio-economic status (SES) based on data from the 2006 New Zealand Census. This report serves to introduce the NZSEI-06 to social science researchers investigating social structure and socio-economic status. A full report on the NZSEI-06, including details of its construction, validation, and a full list of scores can be found in a forthcoming publication by Milne, Byun and Lee, entitled, "New Zealand Socio-economic Index 2006 (NZSEI-06). An update and revision of the New Zealand Socio-economic Index of Occupational Status".

In deriving a measure of SES, I do not claim that I am measuring social class, nor do I even address what is meant by social class. Others can make - and have made - their own claims about what is meant by social class (e.g., Wright, 1985; Erikson and Goldthorpe, 1992), and I will leave it to readers to decide whether the measure of SES I describe corresponds with their conception of class. Instead, I will focus purely on SES, which can be broadly described as "the patterned unequal distribution of opportunities, advantages, resources and power among subgroups of a given population. Distinct socio-economic strata may thus be said to exhibit different life chances, living standards and associated cultural practices" (Davis et al., 1997: p. 8).

The following sections describe uses of SES and how to measure SES, before detailing the background, construction and assessment of the NZSEI-06, and how to assign SES to those outside of the workforce. Some advantages and disadvantages of the NZSEI-06 are then described, and I finish with some concluding remarks.

Uses of SES

Data on SES has a number of uses, particularly in the research field. It is of interest, for example, to test hypotheses about the impact of SES on outcomes of interest in the domains of health, education, wellbeing, life choices, use of services, and crime. Moreover, given the pervasive impact of SES on a number of risk factors and outcomes, SES is often used as a confounding variable when assessing the impact of other factors on outcomes of interest. Other research investigations have involved investigating SES stability and mobility, both within one's life and inter-generationally (Poulton et al., 2002; Silverwood et al., 2012). SES information is also commonly used to describe populations, e.g., to compare different regions or suburbs, or to document the changes over time. …

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