Occupations and Occupational Prestige Indices

Occupations and Occupational Prestige Indices

Data on the occupation that respondents were seeking or in which they were employed or received training were collected during most survey years of the Older and Young Men. Some surveys gathered information on the occupation of intervening and dual jobs.

In each survey, an open-ended question asked respondents "What kind of work (are/were) you doing?". Follow-up questions fielded during some survey years elicited more specific information on job duties and job title. Verbatim responses from the respondent were entered onto the questionnaire by the interviewer and then coded by Census personnel using the Census Bureau alphabetical index of occupations and industries. All occupation variables for the Older and Young Men regardless of survey year are coded with three-digit 1960 Census codes. Additionally, the 1983 and 1990 interviews of Older Men double coded occupation of current or last job using both the 1960 and three-digit 1980 classifications.

A series of edited variables are available for respondents in the Older and Young Men cohorts that provide a three-digit and one-digit occupational code for the current or last job ever reported by the respondent. These variables can be differentiated from the direct pick-up 'Occupation of Current or Last Job' variables by the absence of a question number in the source field. The Industries section provides more information on the editing and creation procedures used for certain occupation variables.

Variable titles for occupations listed within the various NLS documentation items do not always specify the Census coding system utilized. In such cases, users should assume that the 1960 classification was applied.

In the questionnaires and Census versions of the data files provided to CHRR, the responses to some employment-related questions were coded in such a way as to require reference to the response to another question. For example, in the Older Men survey, the occupation of longest job was coded "same as current job" if the respondent's job at the 1966 survey date was the longest job he had held between leaving school and the 1966 survey. Otherwise, the actual three-digit occupation code was coded. In the CHRR data files, no such cross-referencing is required. In the above illustration, "occupation of longest job" is given the three-digit code of "current job" in those instances where current and longest job are the same. Relevant notations are present within each cohort's codebook.

Within the Older and Young Men cohorts, "job" changes are tracked with ambiguity as to whether this would be an occupation change, employer change or both.

Duncan Index. All three-digit 1960 Census occupational categories have been assigned a two-digit ordinal prestige score based upon the education and income distributions of the occupation. The scores, ranging from 0 to 97, may be interpreted either as estimates of prestige ratings or simply as values on a scale of occupational socioeconomic status (Duncan 1961). A series of created variables provide the Duncan Index score for the current or last job ever reported by the respondent. The universe for these variables is all respondents interviewed in a given survey year for whom occupational data have been collected.

GED and SVP scores. The 1966-71 surveys of the Young Men include created variables providing two special occupational scores for current or desired occupations: a General Education Development (GED) score and a Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) score (Department of Labor 1965, Appendix B). The GED score is a representation of the amount of general education or life experience needed to perform a given job. The score represents three factors: reasoning development, mathematical development, and language development; each of these factors is divided into six levels, with one representing the least amount of education and six the most. The first number in the 3-digit GED score represents the level of reasoning required for the job, the second number is the level of mathematical achievement, and the last number indicates language requirements.

The SVP score considers the opposite proposition: that some amount of time is required to learn to perform a specific occupation at an average level of competence. This single-digit score ranges from 1 to 9, with 1 meaning that the job only requires a short demonstration, 2 indicating that the job requires up to 30 days of training and experience, and so on up to 9, which means that the job requires more than 10 years of specific learning and experience before it can be performed at an acceptable level.

Job family and job level. The 1966-71 Young Men interviews also provided classifications for the respondents' current or desired occupations according to job family and job level (Scoville, 1969). Using the first three digits of the Census Bureau occupational codes, the job family variables assign each job to one of 18 occupational clusters (e.g, machines and equipment--specialized, inspection, farming, clerical, research and design, etc.). Based on the GED and SVP scores and the average earnings for each occupation in 1960, the job level variables provide information about the comparative levels of skills, training, and abilities required for different jobs. Each job is classified in levels I-V, with class 'I' jobs requiring the greatest amount of skill and knowledge and class 'V' jobs the least.

Survey Instruments & Documentation: Questions on occupations are found within the "Current Labor Force Status," "Work History," and "Retirement and Pension" sections of the questionnaires; occupation of household members has been collected as part of the "Family Background" or "Household Members" sections. Attachment 2 in each cohort's Codebook Supplement provides the 1960 & 1980 (Older Men only) Census of Population industry and occupational classification codes and the accompanying Duncan Index scores. Appendix 19 in the Young Men Codebook Supplement lists the GED, SVP, job level, and job family codes for each 1960 occupation code.

Background information on the development of the 1960 and 1980 classification systems and the relationships between the 1960 and 1970 coding categories and between the 1970 and 1980 codes is available within various Census publications (Census 1972, 1989).


Census Bureau. 1960 Census of Population Alphabetical Index of Occupations and Industries (Revised Edition). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1960.

Census Bureau. "1970 Occupation and Industry Classification Systems in Terms of Their 1960 Occupation and Industry Elements." Technical Paper 26. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972.

Census Bureau. 1980 Census of Population Classified Index of Industries and Occupations. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1980.

Census Bureau. "The Relationship Between the 1970 and 1980 Industry and Occupation Classification Systems." Technical Paper 59. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989.

Census Bureau. U.S. Census of Population: 1960. Subject Reports. Occupational Characteristics. Final Report PC (2)-7A. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1960.

Duncan, O.D. "A Socioeconomic Index for All Occupations." In: Occupations and Social Status, A.J. Reiss, Jr. et al. New York: Free Press, 1961.

Scoville, James G. The Job Content of the U.S. Economy 1940-1970. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969.

U.S. Department of Labor. Dictionary of Occupational Titles, Third Edition. Volume II: Occupational Classification and Industry Index. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1965.