Thursday, June 26, 2008

What's your social status?

Calculate your social status using this tool from the NY Times. (Click on the components of class tab.) The inputs are occupation, education level, income and wealth. The tool was created to run with a week long series of articles on class in America, back in 2005.

Amazingly, my result is 95 (averaged over the 4 inputs), despite being pulled down by the occupational prestige score 82 of astronomers and physicists :-) We're ranked number 5 overall out of several hundred occupations listed, with doctors and lawyers 1-2, and, strangely, database and system administrators 3-4. CEOs are way down at 46!

While social status can be crudely modeled by the average of the percentile results from the four inputs (higher average = higher social status), the figure doesn't actually represent the percentage of the population with lower status, since the four inputs are correlated and the score assigned to occupation isn't really a population percentile.


Dave Bacon said...

Drats, you win ;) Do I get to enter dual income or just mine :)

Steve Hsu said...

I think it's supposed to be family income, based on the description at the bottom and the percentiles.

But if you use your high CS salary you can't claim to be a physicist :-) There's no "quantum computer algorithmist" occupational category yet, and I doubt "quantum computer programmer" or "quantum database administrator" will be categories for some time ;-)

Anonymous said...


This post was sort of tongue-in-cheek, right?

I like to think that a former Techer, physicist and entrepreneur such as yourself would NEVER take that status imbecility seriously ;-)

Shame on the NYTimes for being so shallow.

Steve Hsu said...

No, I'm not status obsessed. :-)

I do like quantitative social science, which goes into building a little tool like this one.

It's quite interesting (bizarre) that a broad opinion survey ranks, e.g., database administrators as high status. Yet another weirdosity of the general public!

Seth said...

The idea that DBA's come out #3 in occupational status -- for me at least -- PROVES this analysis is total crap. Of course, I knew a priori it was crap ;) But still.

99% of the people walking around in the street don't even know what a database administrator IS, and if they met one socially would very likely assign them a social rank of "more or less a nobody".

I agree that doctors and lawyers enjoy (absurdly) high social prestige, but where are the actors and athletes? I guess one core issue with that "occupational" status dimension is that it is an exceedingly poor predictor of any social reaction.

Imagine if I tell you my friend "Tom" is "an actor". You might picture some waiter who keeps failing auditions for bit parts in horror flicks. OR, you might look at me inquiringly, start asking yourself could THIS guy know Tom Hanks!? If "Tom" means Tom Hanks, then he's got simply off-the-charts occupational status -- the man can write his own ticket to do anything! In fact, if I even vaguely knew Tom Hanks, you'd start ascribing incredible social status to ME.

But probably we're back to Tom the waiter. Which leaves us precisely nowhere.

Of course, you know I too am near the top on all the categories EXCEPT that damn occupational status. Heck, I can't even figure out which one of those occupations I'm IN. ;)

Anonymous said...

The interesting thing to me in this was the slope of income level versus educational status was much greater than the other way around. In other words, there are more people who are highly educated and not highly compensated than there are people who are highly compensated and not highly educated.

Then again, maybe that just jumped out due to my academic research background. ;-)

also, does google allow you to get rid of the captcha for commenters with previously approved comments?

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