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Indian Journal of Community Medicine Vol. 30, No. 4, October-December, 2005

A New Instrument (Scale) for Measuring the Socioeconomic Status of a Family :

Preliminary Study
O.P. Aggarwal, S.K. Bhasin, A.K. Sharma, P. Chhabra, K. Aggarwal, O.P. Rajoura
Research questions : Can a new scale be developed for more accurate assessment of socioeconomic status of families in
India? Hypothesis : The new instrument (scale) is useful for accurate assessment of socioeconomic status of families in India.
Objectives : To devsie and test a new instrument to measure socioeconomic status of families in India. Design : Cross
sectional community based study. Setting : Urban, rural, resettlement colony, slum and mobile groups. Participants : Families
residing in the above areas. Study tool : Filling up of information about socioeconomic status using the newly developed scale.
Results : By a process of random sampling, 2095 families in the National Capital Territory of Delhi were studied to find out their
SES by using this scale. It was found that 31 families (1.5%) belonged to Upper high SES, 221 (10.5%) to High, 291 (14.2%)
to Upper middle, 507 (24.2%) to Lower Middle, 745 (35.6%) to Poor and 294 (14.0%) belonged to Very Poor socioeconomic
category. Conclusion : The instrument serves the purpose of categorizing the families in different socio-economic strata.
However, it needs to be tested in other areas to determine its validity, reliability and utility.
Key words : Socioeconomic Status, Scale, Income, Education.

Introduction classification of 19616 based on per capita monthly income

and later modified in 19687 and 19708 has been extensively
The Socio-economic status (SES) is an important determinant
used. Now a days Kuppuswami scale9 is widely used to
of health and nutritional status as well as of mortality and
measure the socio-economic status of an individual in urban
morbidity. Socio-economic status also influences the
community based on three variables namely education,
accessibility, affordability, acceptability and actual utilization
occupation and income. The modification of Kuppuswami
of various available health facilities. There have been several
scale10 meant to determine the socioeconomic status of family
attempts to develop different scales to measure the socio-
based on education and occupation of head of the family and
economic status. The earliest attempts to find out the social
per capita income per month has also been widely used.
class of an individual were from the standpoint of
Recently, Mishra et al have suggested an economic revision
psychologists1.2. Cattell1 took five most important definers of
of Kuppuswami’s scale in order to account for the devaluation
social status namely prestige rating, intelligence quotient,
of rupee11. In the rural areas, Pareekh12 classification based
income (annual), years of education and inter-correlated them
on nine characteristics namely caste, occupation of family
with 25 occupations. Cantril2 described the American people
head, educatiion of family head, level of social participation
into upper, upper middle, middle lower middle and lower social
of family head, landholding, housing, farm power, material
classes. He concluded that there is by no means a close one
possessions and type of family. The present instrument is
to one correspondence between each social class
proposed to measure the socio-economic status of the family
identification and income group identification. Warner et al3
and is neither based on the individual nor on the head of the
used two methods called Evaluated participation and index
family. Unlike the commonly used Kuppuswami Scale and
of status characteristics to provide accurate measurement of
later its modification, the modified version of Kuppuswami
social class. Evaluated participation comprised several rating
Scale and Pareekh Scale, the instrument developed by us is
techniques based on the proposition that those who interact
applicable both for urban as well as rural families. Moreover,
in the social system of a community evaluate the participation
the instrument has been developed for all sections of the
of those around them and that the members of a community
are explicitly or implicitly aware of their rankings and translate
their evaluation of such social participation into social class Material and Methods
ratings. The Index of Status Characteristics used occupation,
A new instrument was developed by the authors, based on
source of income, house type and dwelling area, which are
literature review, extensive discussion with sociologists,
then rated on a seven point scale. Hollingshed et al4 placed
economists and anthropologists. It was pilot tested on a 5%
individuals and families in classes based on Index of Social
sample in different socio-economic strata of the community
Position. This index used three indicators namely a) residential
before finalizing its contents, format and scoring. The
address of the household, b) the occupational position of its
instrument was validated against the only available and widely
head and c) the years of school the head of the family had
used Kuppuswami’s modified scale of urban population. In
the final form, the scale consisted of 22 items (see Annexure).
In Indian studies, the classification of British Registrar General Suitable weightage was given to each item and scoring for
based on occupation was tried earlier5. Later on Prasad’s each item was based on a scale ranging from 3 to 9. Question
18 i.e. regarding the presence of non milch cattle or pets in
Deptt. of Community Medicine, UCMS, Delhi-110095 the family was scaled on a 3 point scale and question 12
regarding living in the type of a house was scaled on a 9 point
Instrument (Scale) for Measuring the Socioeconomic Status
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Indian Journal of Community Medicine Vol. 30, No. 4, October-December, 2005

scale. The maximum aggregate score was 100. Based on the categories. While no family belonged to lower middle or poor,
final score, the socio-economic states of the family is divided only one family belonged to very poor socioeconomic status
into six socio-economic categories, namely Upper high category. When the results were analyzed for families in the
(combined score of more than 76), High (61-75), Upper Middle resettlement colonies, only 1.8% families belonged to very
(46-60), Lower Middle (31-45), Poor (16-30) and Very Poor high socioeconomic status, 38.6% to high, more than half
(combined score less than 15). In the present study, the (56.4%) to upper middle and 3.2% to lower middle
instrument was used to assess the socio-economic status of socioeconomic status. No family belonged to either poor or
all strata of the society. The study was carried out in five very poor category. Amongst the families residing in slums,
different strata namely the urban, rural, resettlement colony, no family had very high socioeconomic status, 17.3% belonged
slum/jhuggis and amongst those who were mobile and had to high, 51.9% to upper middle, 24.8% to lower middle and
no fixed living respectively. Data was collected by second 6.0% to poor and no family in the very poor category. In the
semester undergraduate medical students. families who had no fixed living place, or who were mobile, no
family belonged to very hgih, only one belonged to high, 4.3%
Results and Discussion
to upper middle, 42% to lower middle, 46.3% to poor and
All the 22 individual questions (Items) were analysed. However, 7.2% to very poor socioeconomic status. That there is a
the results of first two questions are being discussed below: gradual gradient in the socioeconomic status from very high
Question (Item) 1 enquired about the monthly per capita to very low as we move from one end of spectrum i.e. urban
income in rupees from all sources. It was calculated by dividing areas to the other end of the spectrum i.e. those who have no
the total monthly income in rupees from all sources. The fixed living place (mobile population), is evident from the
question was rated on a 7 point scale with scoring from 1 (for results.
those having monthly per capita income less than Rs. 1000 Recommendations
per month) to 7 (for those having monthly per capita income
Since this type of instrument has been developed first time,
more than Rs. 50000). Twenty eight (1.3%) of the families
the replicability and external validity of this scale need to be
were having monthly per capita income more than Rs. 50000,
tested prior to its acceptance. Hence, it is recommended that
3.2% between Rs. 20000 to Rs. 49999/-, 7.4% from Rs. 10,000-
other medical colleges should test it in their urban and rural
19,999/-, 1.4% between Rs. 5,000/- Rs. 9,999/-, 16.0%
field practice areas.
between Rs. 2,500-Rs. 4,999/-, 24.4% from Rs. 1,000/- Rs.
2,499/- and 36.2% were having monthly per capita income References
less than Rs. 1,000/-. The mean score obtained was 2.44.
1. Cattell R. The concept of social status. J Soc Psychol 1942;
Question 2 was regarding the educatiion of either the husband 15:293-308.
or wife who was more educated amongst them. This item was 2. Cantirl H. Identification with social and economic class. J
rated on an eight point scale with scores ranging from 0 (zero) Abnor Soc Psychol 1943; 38.
to 7 amongst them. The mean score of all the respondents 3. Warner WL, Meeken M, Eells K. Social class in America. A
was 2.94. About 8% of the more educated spouse had manual of procedures for measurent of social status. Harper
professional qualifications with technical degrees or diplomas, Torchbooks. The Academy Library. Harper and Brothers
6.3% were post graduates (non technical including Ph.D), Publishers. New York. 1960, 1-44.
13.0% were graduates, 14.3% had passed 10th but were not 4. Hollingshead AB and Redlich FC. Social class and mental
graduates, 14.5% had received primary education but had illness. New John Wiley and Sons Inc London. 1958,158.
studied less than 10th class. 10.5% had attended school for 5. Park JE, Park K. Test Book of Preventive and Social Medicine.
at least one year but had not completed primary school Jabalpur. Banarsidas Bhanot. 1983, 72-5.
education. Another 13.7% were just literates but no schooling 6. Prasad BG. Social CLassification of Indian families. J Indian
while the remaining 19.8% were illiterates. Likewise analysis Medical Assoc. 1961; 37:250-1.
of the 22 items was done. 7. Prasad BG. Social Classification of Indian families. J Indian
Medical Assoc. 1968; 51:365-6.
According to our study, 31 families (1.5%) belonged to upper
high socioeconomic status, 221 (10.5%) belonged to high 8. Prasad BG. Changes proposed in Social classification of
socioeconoic status, 297 (14.2%) upper middle, 507 (24.2%) Indian families. J Indian Med Assoc 1970; 55:198-9.
lower middle, 745 (35.6%) poor and 294 (14.0%) belonged to 9. Kuppuswami B. Mannual of socio economic scale (urban).
very poor socioeconomic status. Among the urban areas, Mansayan 32, Netaji Subhash Marg, Delhi. 1981.
61.4% families belonged to Upper high socioeconomic 10. Mahajan BK, Gupta MC. Text book of Preventive and Social
category, 37.9% to high and 0.7% to upper middle Medicine. Jaypee Brothers, Delhi. Third Edition 1995. 134-5.
socioeconomic category. No family belonged to lower middle, 11. Mishra D, Singh HP. Kuppuswami’s socioeconomic status
poor or very poor socioeconomic status. In case of the 403 scale: A Revision. Indian J Pediatr 2003; 70:273-4.
rural families studied, a majority i.e. 86.3% belonged to high, 12. Pareekh U. Mannual of socioeconomic status (rural).
followed by 8.9% to upper high, 4.6% to upper middle Mansayan, 32, Netaji Subhash Marg, Delhi 1981.

Instrument (Scale) for Measuring the Socioeconomic Status
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Indian Journal of Community Medicine Vol. 30, No. 4, October-December, 2005

Note : The present proforma has largely included family 2. Own house with 3-4 rooms 6
paramters and very few are based on head of the family. The 3. Rented/Govt. house with 5 or more rooms 6
proforma has been developed for all sections of the society. 4. Own house with 1-2 rooms 5
5. Rented/Govt. house with 3-4 rooms 5
Definition of a family :
6. Rented/Govt. house with 1-2 rooms 4
It includes nuclear or joint family. Married couple with unmarried 7. Own jhuggi 3
children or without children. Head of the family will be either 8. Rented jhuggi 2
husband/wife. Dependent father/mother/brother/sister does not 9. No place to live, pavement, mobile cart 1
become head of the family unless he/she is earning and one Q 6. Possession of a vehicle or equivalent
kitchen with pooled income is managed by him/her. 1. 2 or more cars/Tractors/Trucks 4
Q 1. Monthly per capita income from all sources (total monthly 2. 1 Car /Tractor/Truck 3
income /no. of family members) 3. 1 or more scooter(s)/Bullock cart (s) 2
1. >50000 7 4. 1 or more cycles (not baby cycle) 1
2. 20000-49999 6 5. None of the above 0
3. 10000-19999 5 Q. 7 No. of earning members in the family (Nuclear/Joint)
4. 5000-9999 4 1. 3 or more members earning and income pooled 3
5. 2500-4999 3 2. 2 or both husband and wife earning 2
6. 1000-2499 2 3. Only 1 family member earning 1
7. <1000 1 4. No earning member 0
Q 2. Education of either husband or wife who is more Q 8. No. of children head of the family has/had
educated among them 1. 0-1 5
2. 2 4
1. Professional qualification with technical degrees or
3. 3 3
diplomas e.g. Doctor, Eng. CA, MBA, etc. 7
4. 4 2
2. Postgraduation (non-technical incl. Ph.D) 6
5. 5 1
3. Graduation 5
6. >6 0
4. 10th class pass but <Graduation 4
5. Primary pass but <10th 3 Q 9. Facility of some essentials in the family
6. <Primary but attended school for at least 1. Both tap water supply and electricity 2
one year 2 2. Only one of above two is present 1
7. Just literate but no schooling 1 3. None is present 0
8. Illiterate 0 Q10. Education of children (in relation to head of the family)
Q 3. Occupation of husband, otherwise wife. Note : Exclude under 5 children for this item. A child applicable
1. Service in central/State/Public undertakings or here is one who is 5 yrs or above.
Owner of a company employing >20 persons or self 1. All children going/ever gone to school/college 3
employed professional viz Doctors, CAs, Eng. Etc. 2. >50% children ever gone/going to school/college 2
5 3. < 50% children ever gone/going to school/college1
2. Service in Private sector or independent business 4. No child ever gone/going to school/college 0
employing 2-20 persons 4 Q 11. Employment of a domestic servant at home
3. Service at shops, home, transport, own cultivation 1. Employed >2 full time servants on salary for domestic
of land 3 work 4
4. Self employed e.g. shops, Rehdies or petty business 2. Employed only 1 full time servant on salary for
with income >5000 2 domestic work 3
5. Self employed with income <5000 3. Employed > 3 part time servants on salary for
(labourer, house wife) 1 domestic work 2
6. None of the family member is employed 0 4. Employed 1-2 part time servants on salary for
Q 4. Family possessions (presence of each item given below domestic work 1
will carry score of ‘1’) 10 5. Employed no servants for domestic work 0
1. Refrigerator 2. TV 3. Radio/Transistor/Music system Q 12.Type of locality the family is residing
4. AC 5. Washing Machine 6. Telephone 7. Mobile 1. Living in urban locality 5
Tel 8. Credit card 9. Sanitary lat. 10. Any newspaper 2. Living in rural locality 4
subscribed throughout the month 3. Living in resettlement colony 3
Q 5. Living in a type of house 4. Living in slums/jhuggis 2
1. Own house with 5 or more rooms 7 5. No fixed living and mobile 1
Instrument (Scale) for Measuring the Socioeconomic Status
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Indian Journal of Community Medicine Vol. 30, No. 4, October-December, 2005

Q 13.Caste of the family Q 20.Positions held (besides the positions as employee) by

1. Upper caste 4 any one member in the family
2. OBC 3 1. Holding position of 3 or more official or non-official
3. Dalits 2 organizations viz. president/chairman/Secretary/
4. Tribals 1 Treasurer etc. 4
Q. 14. Members of family gone abroad in last three years 2. Holding position of 1-2 official or not-official
(officil or personal) organizations viz. president/chairman/Secretary/
1. Whole family 3 Treasurer etc. 3
2. Only husband and wife 2 3. Holding position as member only of executive or
3. Only 1 family member 1 other committees of official or non-offical
4. None 0 organizations. 2
4. Does not hold any such position 1
Q 15. Possession of agricultural land for cultivation
Q 21. Parental support in the form of non-movable property
1. Own agricultural land >100 acres 5
1. >50 acres of agricultural land -OR -a house/plot
2. Own agricultural land 51-100 acres 4
>1000 sq yards -OR -Both 4
3. Own agricultural land 21-50 acres 3
2. 21-50 acres of agricultural land -OR-a house/plot 501-
4. Own agricultural land 6-20 acres 2
1000 sq yards -OR - Both 3
5. Own agricultural land 1-5 acres 1
3. 1-20 acres of agricultural land -OR -a house /plot
6. No agricultural land 0
100-500 sq yards -OR-Both 2
Q 16. Possession of non-agriculatural land/land for housing 4. No agricultural land -BUT - a house/plot
or other type of land 25-100 sq yards 1
1. Own non-agricultural land/land for 3 5. No parental property 0
housing>1000 Sq Yards
Q22. Total amount of income tax paid by the family (include
2. Own non-agricultural land/land for 2
all the earnign members IT)
housing 501-1000 Sq. Yards
1. >10 lacs 7
3. Own non-agricultural land/land for 1
2. 1-10 lacs 6
housing 25-500 Sq. Yards
3. >50000 but <1 lac 5
4. Own non-agricultural land/land for 0
4. >20000 - <50000 4
housing <25 Sq. Yards -OR-
5. >10000-<20000 3
Does not own non-agricultural land/land for housing at all
6. >5000-<10000 2
Q 17.Presence of milch cattles in the family for business or 7. <5000 1
non-business purposes 8. Nil 0
1. Own 4 or more milch cattles 3
2. Own 1-3 milch cattles 2
3. Own 1 milch cattle 1
4. Does not own any milch cattle 0
Q 18. Presence of non milch cattles or pet animals in the
1. Own 2 or more 2 Social Status Score
2. Own 1 1
Q 19. Besides the house in which the family is living, the 1. Upper High >76
family owns other house or shop or shed etc. of any 2. High 61-75
size whether given on rent or not 3. Upper Middle 46-60
1. Owns 3 or more 3 4. Lower Middle 31-45
2. Owns 2 or more 2
3. Owns 1 1 5. Poor 16-30
4. Does not own any 0 6. Very Poor or Below Poverty Line <15

Instrument (Scale) for Measuring the Socioeconomic Status