Census users in market research and marketing had, for many years, tried to obtain Census outputs by Social Grade, however this could not previously be achieved with any accuracy from published Census results. For this reason, during the mid 1990s, the MRS Census & Geodemographics Group started to explore the feasibility of assigning an approximate Social Grade derived solely from the demographics captured by the Census. They found that this was feasible to a reasonable level of accuracy, and that the approximate Social Grade discriminated in a similar way to ‘true’ Social Grade. As a result, the case was made to and agreed by the Census Offices that Census outputs by approximate Social Grade should be derived by applying an algorithm to the Census output database.

The development, accuracy and applications of the Social Grade approximation were documented by Erhard Meier and Corrine Moy in their paper “Social Grading and the Census” (International Journal of Market Research 46(2), 2004, pp141–170).

The new outputs formed part of the Standard Tables and Census Area Statistics for all areas in the UK. Tables were included for adults in households classified by the approximate Social Grade of the Household Reference Person (HRP) – the closest Census equivalent to Chief Income Earner. In addition, the Census tables on working population in each area include a Social Grade profile, classified according to the approximate Social Grades of the individuals.

Results produced using the Social Grade algorithm are similar to other sources of information for people aged 16–64, but show differences from other sources for those aged 65 and above. A document is available which demonstrates the extent of the similarities and differences and explains the likely causes:

Download 2001 Census Output by the MRS Social Grade Approximation

In order to help users to employ the results across the 16–64 age range, for which the algorithm has worked well, MRS commissioned a customised set of Census tables from ONS. A document is available describing these tables, together with an accompanying spreadsheet which provides the table outlines:

Download description of Commissioned Tables on Social Grade Approximation

Download spreadsheet containing layouts of Commissioned Tables on Social Grade Approximation

To obtain these commissioned tables, please contact ONS Census Customer Services:

Tel: +44 (0)1329 444972
Fax: +44 (0)1633 652981

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