Measurement

When measuring social class, which is often used simultaneously with socioeconomic status, the characteristics of the male father figure are most often used to represent the status of the children. This approach seems logical when assessing children from two-parent, intact families. The father figure approach may not always be an accurate portrayal of most families in society. With a high rate of divorced, stepparent, and single-parent, often female, families, looking at the father's income not only may be inaccurate but may sometimes be impossible. Therefore, when measuring the socioeconomic status of children it may be best to examine the characteristics of the person who heads the family whether that person is a male or a female. Since social class is about more than just money, researchers may want to consider other features besides the basic financial feature. Nonmaterial resources and social environment are factors that influence social class as well.

Income is the most recognized form of measuring social class or socioeconomic status, but it may not always be the best indicator. Children often do not know how much their parents make and adults are sometimes hesitant to answer. Some people take the "income question'' very personally because of the stigma that often accompanies level of income. Nonmaterial resources also factor in determining class. This category contains information about education, including the highest degree attained and the highest grade in school completed. It is important to know the educational background of the parents when children are being studied because it helps provide insight into the kind of educational support the children receive at home, such as encouragement and help on homework. Social environment is the third suggested contributor for measuring social class or socioeconomic status. This refers to the environment around children, especially that of family structure.

Poverty is also associated with social class. The U.S. Bureau of the Census publishes yearly reports on the amount of income that constitutes the poverty threshold. In 2000 the poverty threshold for a family of four was $17,761. Along with poverty information, it is also helpful to know the occupation of the parents. Information regarding occupational prestige scores is available from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Labor.

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