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Indexes of Social Stratification: What Do They Measure? NICHD SES

Stricker, Lawrence J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Factor Analysis, Racial Differences, Social Stratification, Socioeconomic Status (SES), Surveys, Toledo Study, Validity Studies


This study is concerned with the ability of standard indexes of socioeconomic status and similar devices to measure major dimensions of social stratification for Whites and Blacks. Factor analyses of survey data for samples of both races uncovered five matching factors and two others unique to a single sample, all of which seem to represent important components of stratification. Most of the indexes were relevant to three matching factors, and some of these measures consistently loaded them in both samples. However, several of the pertinent indexes only loaded White versions of these factors, and some failed to load any. Few, if any, indexes were relevant to or loaded the remaining factors. Additionally, some indexes were not pertinent to and did not load any factor. In contrast to the indexes, other variables loaded all but one of the factors. The main conclusions are that (a) the coverage of the indexes is restricted; (b) the devices are not uniformly applicable to Blacks; and (c) the complexity of this domain requires measures of each factor, achievable by combining standard indexes and new variables. (15pp.)

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