Social Class

Father’s and grandfathers’ occupation and childhood social class

Information about the occupation of the father was asked at many of the follow-ups in childhood. Occupation was initially coded according using the Registrar General's occupational classification at the time. 

Derived commonly used variables: In 1976, the research team retrospectively applied the 1970 OPCS Classification of Occupations to code the current or last occupation and employment status of the fathers (or of the current husband) and derived the socioeconomic group and social class for the following years:

  • 1950 (when survey members were aged 4 years)

  • 1957 (when survey members were aged 11 years)

  • 1961 (when survey members were aged 15 years)

In addition, the occupation, employment status, socioeconomic group and social class of the maternal grandfather and paternal grandfather were reported by the mother in 1954.

An overall measure of childhood social class takes social class at age 11 years and then if that is missing, social class at 15 years and then four years. 

Study member and partner’s occupations and social class

Information about own and partner’s occupation was asked at 26, 31, 36, 43, 53 and 60-64 years.

  • Current own social class (at 26, 36, 43, 53 and 60-64 years)

  • Current or most recent own social class (at 26, 36, 43 and 53 years)

  • Current spouse social class (at 26, 36, 43, 53 and 60-64 years)

  • Current or most recent own social class of spouse (at 36, 43 and 53 years - not available at 26 years)

Head of household’s social class (based on own social class if male or unmarried female, and spouse's social class if married female) was derived.

An overall measure of adult own social class  takes current or last social class at 43 years and then, if not available, at 36 and then 26 years. A subsequent variable was derived at 53 years, which takes current or last social class at 53 years, and imputes from earlier years if not available then. Similar variables have been created for measures of spousal social class


Attitudes to social class

Questionnaire E in 1972 (26 years) focused on study members' understanding of social class and social mobility.



Obtaining the standard social class variables

You can obtain a list of the standard topic variables to use in an NSHD data sharing request by selecting the link at the end of this page. The XML version of the link can be sent to the LHA as part of a data sharing request. Simply use your browser's Save As facility to save the list of variables to a file on your computer. You can then email the XML version to us in support of your application, or when you fill in the data access application form and it asks which variables you need, mention the 'social class standard basket'.


Please Note that if you are using 'overall social class' as a covariate, the generally-used variables are SC1553 (adult) and CHSC (child) - however these may not be the best variables for your project, be sure to investigate the social class variables further on Skylark before using them.

More information is available on this topic - including the main variable naming conventions and some value labels.

HTML version of the standard variables to view

Download the XML for the social class standard basket