Poor classification 2

June 4, 2004

David Rose accuses me of "cavalier criticisms" of the government social-class schema. It is Rose who is being cavalier. I was not criticising the schema, but rather the use that had been made of it, and the way in which the study referred to was reported in the quality press, in which the schema was treated as ordinal.

As to my remark about plumbers and electricians on £50,000 a year, my tone was obviously ironic, and it is therefore inappropriate to treat it as a scientific statement and meet it with statistics. If Rose thinks the figures given for plumbers and electricians in the New Earnings Survey 2003 are an accurate reflection of actual earnings in these trades, then he is either a great DIY-er or out of touch with reality.

The fact that his classification does not relate to income makes it useless as a tool of socioeconomic research or of policy-making. And his statement that "people in the same occupation might be in any number of classes", is a strange defence. If that is so, then the schema is completely useless. So what is it actually for?

Richard Austen-Baker
Leeds University

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