Socio-structural variables

GESIS offers information and consulting regarding the measurement of sociostructural (so-called "background") variables in population surveys. This includes consulting about questionnaire instruments, coding and harmonisation across samples or studies, for example for the purpose of cross-national comparison. There are several contributions to the GESIS Survey Guidelines on sociodemographic characteristics.

Core areas of our expertise are for example in:

  • measurement of education, especially in cross-cultural surveys. Please find the relevant contribution to the GESIS Survey Guidelines here.
  • Regarding the measurement of socio-cultural/ethnic origins please find specific information regarding an instrument developed for the European Social Survey round 7 here, including the respective Stata syntax here, and a further publication on its validation here.

GESIS represents the German Consortium of Social Science Institutes (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Sozialwissenschaftlicher Institute e. V., ASI) in the German working group "Standard Demography". The "Standard Demography" aims at standardised measurement of socio-structural variables across population and household surveys in Germany, to permit a larger degree of comparability across individual studies. The 6th edition (2016, in German only) was completely revised and adapted to current societal circumstances. As its predecessors, this edition presents joint recommendations by the Working Party of German Market and Social Research Institutes (ADM Arbeitskreis Deutscher Markt- und Sozialforschungsinstitute e. V.), the ASI and the Federal Statistical Office. Further details are available on the German version of this page, and in this contribution to the GESIS Survey Guidelines.

To capture the highest education qualification in computer-assisted (CAP/SI and CAWI) cross-cultural surveys, an innovative survey instrument using a database lookup has been developed in the “Computer-assisted measurement and coding of education in surveys” (CAMCES) project 2013-2016 at GESIS. With the CAMCES tool, surveys can provide a detailed measurement of the education qualifications in different countries and, using syntax made available by the project, easily code them according to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED-A). Currently, the project is continued within the EU-Horizon 2020 project SERISS and the resulting tools can be found at There you will also fine a live database search, via which individual educational qualifications from a wide range of countries can be searched together with their classification information, e.g. for ex-post coding of open text responses in surveys.  

At, a tool for measuring and coding information on fields of education and training across education levels was made available, which was also developed at GESIS. We hope that this more detailed measurement approach is less burdensome and more valid especially for vocationally educated respondents, for whom the otherwise often offered highly aggregated fields of education, which mostly reflect fields of study in higher education, do not work well. In contrast to educational qualifications, we assumed that fields of education can be translated. The database currently covers 34 languages. Most of these covers all three levels of UNESCO-UIS' classification for fields of education and training, ISCED-F. also offers tools for measuring and coding occupations, industries, and social networks.

Measurement of social class and social status in surveys: