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.

Social Grade is a helpful tool for defining target groups in many consumer markets.  Its use on the National Readership Survey is outlined here.

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. More details on social grade can be found on the NRS Page.

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.

A new report for the 2021 Approximated Social Grade Algorithm will be available soon.

Please see our pages below for further information:

2021 Census Approximated Social Grade
2011 Census Approximated Social Grade
2001 Census Approximated Social Grade

Evaluation at region level

The JICPOPS Technical Committee has evaluated Approximate Social Grade for the 2011 Census at region level in comparison with the National Readership Survey (NRS). To download the evaluation document, please click here.

Occupational groupings

Research practitioners use this handy guide to determine the social grade of research respondents. It covers most job titles you’re ever likely to come across. 

The printed publication costs £20.00 per copy. Discounts apply to orders of 5 or more copies - see order form for details

To order a copy email:

Definitions used in social grading

The Occupational grouping guide is based on a set of definitions used in social grading.  These cover rules for defining households, chief income earners, how to grade non-workers and so on.  A listing of definitions for social grading can be found here. 


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