Man, Work, and Society: A Reader in the Sociology of Occupations

By Sigmund Nosow; William H. Form | Go to book overview

4. AN EMPIRICAL SCALE OF PRESTIGE STATUS OF OCCUPATIONS · Mapheus Smith

Although these studies reveal a large amount of interest in the prestige of occupations and in the measurement of that prestige; and although various important areas of the country have received some attention, the net advancement in useful knowledge has been small. The one study that combined information from even two areas of the country was that of Counts. The others did not employ very similar lists of occupations, and such a variety of techniques was employed in the work that there is no way to combine the results into a single rank-order arrangement or definite scale that may be called representative of occupational prestige in the country during any part of the period. Yet there is nothing inherently impossible about developing a scale of occupational prestige formed by combining opinions from various parts of the country, as the present discussion will show.

The present study is among the most extensive reported. The number of occupational evaluators participating was 345,1 which has been surpassed in several other investigations of shorter occupational lists, but no other study of one hundred occupations evaluated by so many subjects has been published in detail. More important, the present study establishes various points on a metric scale on which all occupations may be located,2 and lays a foundation for a scale contributed to by ratings made in different parts of the country.

The numerical values for the prestige status of each occupation was obtained partly by means of a procedure, which has been used in former studies of occupational prestige and also very widely in the formation of attitude and social distance scales, as well as in other studies. The entire procedure consisted of two main parts: (1) preliminary ranking of the occupations from high to low prestige status on the basis of the order of rank at a dinner honoring a celebrity with an average member of each occupational class being seated at a formal dinner nearer to or farther from the celebrity than the average member of another, the distinctions between occupations to be made entirely on the basis of occupational prestige; and (2) rating each occupation on a scale of one hundred points, the lower limit of this scale being conceived as reserved for the occupation having the lowest prestige in the United States according to the ratees personal estimation, and the highest as being reserved for the occupation having the highest prestige regardless of whether the extreme limits were included in the occupations of the study.3 The rater was also directed to give the same rating to more than one of the occupations, if they appeared to be exactly equal. All ratings were made in terms of whole numbers.

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