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Social Grade

Census Output on Approximated Social Grade


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 each individual.

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.

Development Report

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 produce.

To download this report on the development of the algorithm, including its detailed specification, please click here.


Evaluation at Region Level

The 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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