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Development of a European Socio-Economic Classification Scheme

In the context of the ESeC (European Socio-Economic Classification) project, the objective was to generate a conceptually lucid, validated, and easily implemented European socio-economic classification of individuals and households.

ESeC bears a close resemblance to Erikson’s and Goldthorpe’s widely used class scheme. This substantially improves comparative research in a number of research fields in the area of social structure and social change in European societies, because it is used in various, regularly completed major data collections (e.g. labor, income and consumption surveys) of European Statistical Offices or in the European Social Survey. 

The ESeC project was directed by David Rose (University of Essex) and conducted by teams of researchers based in several countries. The German project partners were based at the Mannheim Center for European Social Research (Walter Müller, Reinhard Pollak, Cornelia Hausen, Jean-Marie Jungblut) and at GESIS (Heike Wirth). 

Project duration

2004 - 2007

See also:

  • Wirth, Heike (2023): EU-SILC Tools: European Socioeconomic Classification - ESeC88 and ESeC08. GESIS Papers 2023/01. [.pdf]
    • Abstract: European inequality research often follows the tradition of using occupational based categorical classification to identify the socioeconomic position of individuals or households (e.g., classes, strata, milieus, occupational groups). In the past, European studies have often used the Erikson-Goldthorpe-Portocarero class (EGP) scheme (cf. Erikson & Goldthorpe 1992). However, the EGP scheme has only been validated for Great Britain (cf. Evans 1992). Variants for other countries are largely based on informed plausibility, following the British model, though operationalisation may vary by country. As an alternative to the EGP, two other currently available categorical concepts are the ESeC (European Socioeconomic Classification) and the ESeG (European Socioeconomic Groups), both based on the International Standard Classification of Occupation (ISCO). Both concepts are intended to improve cross-country comparative analysis of social inequality in Europe. However, the ESeC and ESeG differ in their theoretical basis and should not be confused with each other, and the ESeC and ESeG also cannot readily be transferred into each other. The ESeC is available for ISCO-88 (ESeC88) and ISCO-08 (ESeC08). The ESeG is available for ISCO-08. In this paper, we focus on the operationalisation of ESeC with EU-SILC cross-sectional data (2004-2020). Alongside this report, we have published syntax files (SPSS, Stata, and R) which can be used for the operationalisation of ESeC and ESeG.
  • Pollak, Reinhard; Wirth, Heike; Weiss, Felix; Bauer, Gerrit; Müller, Walter (2009): On the Comparative Measurement of Supervisory Status using the Examples of the ESS and the EU-LFS. In: Pfau-Effinger, Birgit; Sakac Magdalenic, Sladana; Wolf, Christof. International vergleichende Sozialforschung. Ansätze und Messkonzepte unter den Bedingungen der Globalisierung. VS-Verlag. S. 173-206.
  • Pollak, Reinhard; Bauer, Gerrit; Müller, Walter; Weiss, Felix; Wirth, Heike (2009): The comparative measurement of supervisory status. In: David Rose, Eric Harrison (eds): Social Class in Europe. An introduction to the European Socio-economic Classification. Routledge. P.138-157.
  • Wirth, Heike (2009): Comments on the papers ‚The 2008 edition of the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO)‘ (Cécile Brousse) ‚Relevance of supervision as a classification criterion‘ (Loup Wolff).CNIS meeting on international socio-occupational classifications Paris, 14th of September, 2009 [.pdf].
  • Wirth, Heike; Gresch, Cornelia; Müller, Walter; Pollak, Reinhard; Weiss, Felix (2009): Measuring social class: The case of Germany. In: David Rose, Eric Harrison (eds): Social Class in Europe. An introduction to the European Socio-economic Classification. Routledge. P.114-137.
  • Wirth, Heike; Gresch, Cornelia; Müller, Walter; Pollak, Reinhard; Weiss ,Felix (2009): Validating the ESeC-scheme as operationalization of social class: The case of Germany. MZES Arbeitspapiere – Working Papers Nr. 119, 2009 [.pdf].
  • Wirth, Heike; Fischer. Andreas (2008): ESeC – European Socioeconomic Classification. Die Operationalisierung von ESeC im kumulierten ALLBUS 1980-2006 [.pdf] (459 kB).
  • Paper to European Socio-Economic Classification Validation Conference vom 19.-21.01. 2006 in Lissabon, Portugal.
  • Bauer, Gerrit; Jungblut, Jean-Marie; Müller, Walter; Pollak, Reinhard; Wirth, Heike (2006): Issues in the Comparative Measurement of the Supervisory Function. Workshop on the Application of ESeC vom 29.-30.06.2006 in Bled, Slovenia [.pdf] (238 kB).
  • Müller, Walter; Wirth, Heike; Bauer, Gerrit; Pollak, Reinhard; Weiss, Felix (2006): ESeC – Kurzbericht zur Validierung und Operationalisierung einer europäischen sozioökonomischen Klassifikation. In: ZUMA-Nachrichten 59, Jg. 30, November 2006, S. 111 – 119 [.pdf] (211 kB).
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