The importance of specificity in occupation-based social classifications



Lambert P, Tan KLL, Prandy K, Gayle V & Bergman M (2008) The importance of specificity in occupation-based social classifications. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 28 (5/6), pp. 179-192.

Purpose - This paper aims to present reasons why social classifications which use occupations should seek to adopt "specific" approaches which are tailored to the country, time period and gender of the subjects under study. Design/methodology/approach - The relative motivations for adopting a specific approach to social classifications are discussed and theoretical perspectives on specificity and empirical evidence on the contribution of specific approaches are reviewed. Also the practical costs of implementing specific social classifications are evaluated, and the authors' development of the "GEODE" data service (grid‐enabled occupational data environment), which seeks to assist this process, is discussed. Findings - Specific approaches make a non‐trivial difference to the conclusions drawn from analyses of occupation‐based social classifications. It is argued that the GEODE service has reduced the practical challenges of implementing specific measures. Research limitations/implications - There remain conceptual and pragmatic challenges in working with specific occupation‐based social classifications. Non‐specific ("universal") measures are adequate for many purposes. Practical implications - The paper argues that there are few excuses for ignoring specific occupation‐based social classifications. Originality/value - The paper demonstrates that recent technological developments have shifted the balance in the long‐standing debate between universal and specific approaches to occupation‐based social classifications.

Jobs; Social differentiation; Classification; Survey

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy: Volume 28, Issue 5/6

Publication date31/12/2008

People (1)


Professor Paul Lambert

Professor Paul Lambert

Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology