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Best Practices in Conceptualizing and Measuring Social Class in Psychological Research


  • The first and second listed authors contributed equally to this article and share first authorship; their names are listed alphabetically here. The authors served on the American Psychological Association (APA) Committee on Socioeconomic Status. Thank you to Keyona King-Tsikata, Tammy Barnes, and the Office on Socioeconomic Status for their assistance with this project. We also thank the following for their insightful and helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article: Aprile D. Benner, Heather Bullock, Nina C. Chien, Kirby A. Chow, Beth White, Sandra Graham, Aletha C. Huston, Greg J. Duncan, William Liu, and APA's Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI).


An extensive body of research has documented the relation between social class, as indexed by socioeconomic status (SES) and subjective social status (SSS), and a host of outcomes, including physical and mental health, academic achievement, and educational attainment. Yet, there remains ambiguity regarding how best to conceptualize and measure social class. This article clarifies definitional and measurement issues related to the assessment of SES and SSS, addresses their importance and relevance for psychological research, and reviews best practices with regard to measurement and assessment. We conclude by discussing the integration of social class with other markers of social position to promote the advancement of psychological science.