Social Grade is a socio-economic classification. This is a way of grouping people by type, which is mainly based on their social and financial situation. Market research and marketing industries use social grade to support analyses of spending habits and consumer attitudes.

Census 2021 was not designed to directly measure social grade, as this requires more comprehensive survey questions, typically carried out by a market research interviewer. For Census 2021, the Market Research Society (MRS) modelled social grade based on data from the 2021 National Readership Survey (NRS). In the NRS, only the person with the largest income receives their own social grade, and all members of the household are assigned this grade. Based on this approach, we have a good approximation of Social Grade for households using the characteristics of Household Reference Persons for Census 2021.

Social Grade has six possible classifications (A, B, C1, C2, D and E). Census data uses a combined, four-way classification:

  • AB: Higher and intermediate managerial, administrative and professional occupations

  • C1: Supervisory, clerical, and junior managerial, administrative and professional occupations

  • C2: Skilled manual occupations

  • DE: Semi-skilled and unskilled manual occupations; unemployed and lowest grade occupations

Social Grade estimates from census data are more precise for Household Reference Persons of working age than for other age groups. We will provide an approximated Social Grade for all usual residents in households using the grade of the Household Reference Person, aged 16 to 64 years.

The 2021 social grade outputs will be modelled using different algorithms and variables. As a result, approximated social grade profiles for 2011 and 2021 are broadly comparable.

For more detail on MRS’s information on social grade and its development of the model for the 2021 Census, see the Market Research Society Social grade page.

Included variables and classifications

We have detailed the variables, classifications and geographies included in the Approximated Social Grade datasets in the corresponding tabs of the Approximated social grade specifications spreadsheet.

Where to find the data

We have published the Approximated Social Grade datasets on the Nomis website. We have published a statistical bulletin to provide commentary on the data on the ONS website.

More information

If you have any questions about Census 2021 Approximated Social Grade, please email census.customer.services@ons.gov.uk.

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