Social Class Indicators and Health at Midlife

Miech, Richard Allen, and Robert Hauser
Working paper no. 1998-06


There are several competing schemes for the measurement of social and economic standing in studies of health and well-being. We address the predictive validity of several alternative measures of social class and socioeconomic standing in relation to an array of health outcomes in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. The WLS has successfully followed a large cohort of Wisconsin high school graduates from 1957 to 1992-93, when they were 53 or 54 years old. We find that occupational education has modest relationships with self-reported general health and that it dominates other occupation-based measures, at least among men. Social class, as specified by Wright or by Erikson and Golthorpe, bears little relation to this health measure. None of the occupation-based measures adds to the effects on self-reported general health of either educational attainment or the combination of education with personal income.