Social Grade is the ‘common currency’ social
classification (the ‘ABC1’ system) used by the advertising industry and
employed throughout marketing, advertising and market research. The
classification assigns every household to a grade, usually based upon the
occupation and employment status of the Chief Income Earner, but in some cases
using other characteristics. For this reason alone, Social Grade is incompatible
with government social classifications and can only be properly determined by
trained market research interviewers backed up by expert coders.
The ONS has produced census output on approximated
Social Grade, by applying an algorithm developed by members of the MRS Census
& Geodemographics Group. The
algorithm uses demographics captured by the Census to assign a likely grade to
A broadly similar approach was applied to the 2001 Census, however it
should be noted that the 2001 and 2011 Social Grade outputs were modelled using
different algorithms, employing different variables. Therefore, it would be misleading to use
Census outputs to examine trends in approximated Social Grade profiles between
2001 and 2011. Further details of the previous Social Grade approximation may
be found here
The initial 2011 Census output table on Approximated Social Grade is
table number QS611EW, which provides counts for grades AB, C1, C2 and DE, for
household reference persons aged 16 to 64.
The ‘Household Reference Person’ is the closest equivalent in the Census
to ‘Chief Income Earner’.
This table is available from the ONS website for local authorities and
higher levels of geography. Click here.
The equivalent table is available from NOMIS for output areas and wards. Click here.
A number of Census outputs have been released using
Approximate Social Grade, including Quick Statistics (QS), Local
Characteristics (LC) and Detailed Characteristics (DC) tables. To search
for tables on the ONS website, please click here.
A report is available on the development of the 2011
Social Grade algorithm – this document explains the approach taken and accuracy
achieved, and evaluates the discriminatory power of the approximation in
comparison with ‘true’ Social Grade.
The report also includes the exact algorithm
applied on the 2011 Census, as a series of syntax rules. This enables users to
apply the algorithm to other datasets containing the same variables – however
the algorithm’s developers take no responsibility for any results that users
To download this report on the development of the algorithm, including
its detailed specification, please click here.
Evaluation at Region Level
JICPOPS Technical Committee has evaluated Approximate Social Grade at region
level in comparison with the National Readership Survey (NRS). To download
the evaluation document, please click here
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