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INDEX - An index of socio-economic status

Many of the concepts social scientists study are quite complex and cannot adequately be measured by a single indicator. In these cases researchers develop several indicators and in some case will give different weights to each indicator. This combination of indicators and weights is an index. Socio-economic status is difficult to measure and typically the indicators of income, occupation and education are used.

If occupation is seen as more central it may be given more weight. An index of socio-economic status is developed. Some examples of usage of : "An index of socio-economic status"

"An index of socio-economic status (SES) was modelled as a linear combination of parents' education (FE and ME for fathers' and mothers' education, respectively), previous and present family social class (SC1 and SC2) based on fathers' occupation."

"We undertook an ecological study to investigate differences in coronary heart disease mortality within Nottingham health authority, England, to establish whether coronary mortality varied according to socio-economic status, and how mortality rates changed over a decade. An index of socio-economic status was developed from Census variables."

"To explore the relationship between family average income (FAI; an index of socio-economic status) and Type 2 diabetes in a region of mainland China."

"To explore the relationship between family average income (FAI; an index of socio-economic status) and body mass index (BMI; a widely used, inexpensive indicator of weight status) above the healthy weight range in a region of Mainland China."  

Development of a Socio-Economic-Status Index Using United States Census Data.
Grosset, Jane M.; Hawk, Thomas R.
Abstract: The study reported here employed a quasi-factorial ecological approach to explore the possibility of using economic and social indicators available from the 1980 census to construct a socio-economic status (SES) index. The study hypothesized that if an appropriate factor analysis model could be identified, factor score equations could be used to construct an SES index for each of the 49 zip codes in a large eastern city. In turn, students attending a public two-year college in the city could be assigned an SES measure on the basis of their residential zip code. Using census data, seven economic and social indicators (i.e., mean per-capita income, median household income, percentage of persons below the poverty level, percentage of high-school graduates and college graduates, percentage of individuals on unemployment, and percentage of individuals on work disability) were factor analyzed. Indices representing dimensions of economic deprivation and educational attainment were used to categorize zip codes as either high or low SES. Correlations of the SES indices with high-risk student behaviors, academic performance, and attrition were statistically significant in most analyses, albeit they offered only modest contributions to the explanation of overall variation. Institutional efforts to use the SES variables in counseling and recruitment have been extremely cautious, in recognition of the fact that SES data can only be used in the context of a holistic assessment. - eric.ed.gov

Creating and Validating an Index of Socioeconomic Status
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality - ahrq.gov
Over the years, there has been considerable empirical evidence accumulated that indicates in the US that health status, mortality, and health services use differ by what has been referred to variously as socioeconomic status, social class, social position or SES. (Braveman et al. 2005) More recently, there has been a growing unease about the accumulation of evidence on the extent of variation in health status, mortality, and health services use that is associated with race and ethnicity (Krieger et al., 2005). While they are different, it is unfortunate that socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity are not independent of one another in their association with health status, mortality, and health services use. This has at times led to the mistaken use of race/ethnicity as a surrogate measure of socioeconomic status.
Because of this, it is particularly important to try to separate the influences of socioeconomic status (SES) and race/ethnicity on health and utilization of health services in our empirical research. Only then will it be possible for policymakers to identify where to place their priorities in the development of ameliorative interventions – to overcome the socioeconomic barriers to accessing timely, appropriate, and good quality care, the sub-cultural values and restricted world view that keep some minorities from taking full advantage of the services available to them, or the prejudice against minorities of providers and the health care system. As we indicated earlier, the first objective of this project is to create and validate a measure of SES to include in analyses of racial/ethnic health care disparities in the use of covered services by Medicare beneficiaries.
Our interest in this issue arises from the use of Medicare claims in the study of racial/ethnic disparities. Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in the fee-for-service program present an ideal opportunity to study racial/ethnic disparities in health status, mortality, and health services use because they have similar health care coverage. The Medicare enrollment database (EDB) contains person-specific information on the demographic characteristics – age, gender, race/ethnicity – of beneficiaries. It also includes information on whether beneficiaries receive additional Government benefits – ranging from help paying their share of premiums to benefits not included in regular Medicare – due to their low income level. It does not, however, include any person-level measures that are typically considered indicators of socioeconomic status.
The EDB does contain residential address information for beneficiaries that, while not in a form that is immediately useable, can with some reasonable effort be transformed into a geocode that corresponds to US Census designated areas (e.g., block groups, tracts, municipalities, counties, ZIP code tabulation areas, states, divisions, regions). These areas have some well-accepted indicators of socioeconomic status reported at least every 10 years. In fact, a literature has developed in Epidemiology, Social Medicine, and Medical Sociology that has established the relevance of SES measures at the level of meaningful homogeneous social aggregates like neighborhoods and communities. It has been shown that such social aggregates reflect common culture, behavior, norms, and values in response to selected symptoms of ill health, health care seeking behavior, as well as demonstrating likely differences in access to services, quality of available care, and discrimination in the provision of services.