But what is it for?

June 18, 2004

David Rose (Letters, June 11) continues to misrepresent me, and continues to avoid answering the question raised. My original criticism was not of his socioeconomic classification schema, but of the use to which it had been put.

However, his intemperate response reveals some problems with the schema itself. He asserts that "a good classification should measure the underlying structure that determines people's incomes and life chances ..."

Maybe so, but a schema also needs to be of some utility. With this system, the social scientist can go into someone's home, ask questions and then tell the interviewee that their income and life chances are broadly similar to those of another social group. So what?

Social scientists generally want to do things such as analyse university entrance prospects by social class (as in the study that sparked this correspondence), but if, as Rose admits, a person of any given occupation could be in any number of socioeconomic classes, in practice, such a task is impossible. Further, if one occupation can fall into any number of classes, how can Rose state that "schoolteachers are in class 2".

My question was to what use we could put the schema (Letters, June 4). Rose has not responded to this?

I am sorry Rose prefers obfuscation, evasion and muddled thinking to relevance, logic and rational explanation, but then he is not a lawyer.

Richard Austen-Baker
Leeds University

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