THE PRESTIGE-RATING TECHNIQUE IN COMMUNITY STRATIFICATION RESEARCH*
Robert A. Ellis
THE PRESTIGE-RATING evaluations that residents of small communities make of one another have been studied in at least two different ways by stratification researchers. One has been to use the relatively unstructured method of participant observation.1 The investigator, by immersing himself in the social life of an area and participating in the widest possible variety of formal and informal community activities, gains extensive, firsthand familiarity with social distinctions drawn by the townspeople. He becomes familiar with what people say about one another and how they treat one another. From these experiences, he gradually develops an intuitive understanding of the prestige structure of the community and the pervasive implications it can have for the patterning of behavior and interpersonal relationships.
An alternative approach that avoids much of the subjectivity inherent in the participant observation method has been to use a prestige-rating technique.2 The scope of operations with this technique is more limited in that the researcher confines his activities to studying social-prestige ratings of local residents as accorded by selected members of the community. The ratings are assessed in standardized fashion, and well-de____________________