Friday, June 22, 2012

Klout, social media, social status, and social class


Will Barratt, Ph.D.

I got an invitation to join Klout yesterday.  I had no idea what Klout was so I spent some time chatting on-line and in-person with colleagues and reading reviews of Klout.  Officially Klout is touted as “making influence measurable” by tracking your influence through social media.

Once I learned what Klout was I became fascinated by the social class implications of this  tracking software.  Klout may have been designed to help businesses track the extent to which their tweets are re-tweeted, or how often people click their Facebook profiles, but Klout is being marketed to individuals also.  One of my Twitter active colleagues noted, on Facebook of course, that “I monitor my score and prefer not to see it drop.”

Paying attention to the rules that Klout uses will shape your postings toward those which get you more Klout influence points.  Any game player, especially complex computer game players, will mold their behavior so that they can accumulate more points.  Klout, from one perspective, is a social media game that you can win.  Whether or not the rules of Klout actually reflect anything in reality is a matter for a discussion of measurement validity. 

Since Klout is not a zero sum game (if I win a point then you lose a point) losing has relative and not absolute meaning.  Winning, having more points, is still winning.  Now you can have a real-time assessment of your on -line influence.  Influence will be, for many people, equated with social status.  Influence will be, for many people, equated with social capital.  If you have a high score then you are a winner.  If you have a low score then you are a loser.

Which of us has not done a Google search on our own name and the name of someone else to compare our scores?  Which of us has not posted something to Twitter hoping that it will get Re-Tweeted?  Klout can calculate your popularity in social media in real time so that you can use it to judge your personal worth, your social status, and your social class.  Or not.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reflected social status and social class


Will Barratt, Ph.D.
Indiana State University

Our social status comes from quite a variety of sources.  Some of our social status comes from our own accomplishments, some from our parents, and some from reflected social status of our purchases and affiliations.  Positional goods, prestige fashion, are one example of reflected social status.  If you wear or carry a high fashion high prestige high status accessory then the status and prestige of the object transfers to you.  Women’s fashion purses are an example of positional goods.  The large corporate logo, the identifiable pattern of the cloth, and the repeated logo are all designed to enhance the reflected social status of the owner. 

It has been argued that large logos, obviously labeled fashion, are the sigil of an insecure middle class and subtly labeled fashions are the sigil of a more secure upper middle class – smaller labels occur as you move upscale in fashion.  The status secure require no labels.

But, what about other reflected social status?  In some ways sports team affiliation and the emphasis on a team’s win-loss records is one way to achieve reflected status.  “Everybody loves a winner!”  This leads to all manner of accounting behavior – excuses – when the team is losing.  Interestingly the social status of a particular college is a reflection of the status of their sports teams.  Drawing a parallel between winning at football and preparing a student for Pre-Law is a stretch, but many people manage to make that illogical and data free jump. 

College affiliation, often marked by the class ring sigil, the t-shirt sigil, or rear window decal sigil, is another way to attain reflected social status.  Somehow a child’s academic affiliation becomes part of the reflected social status of the entire family.  “Well, our daughter is Pre-Law at Darwinian College you know.” Both the child’s major and the university are sources of reflected social status for parents. 

College reputation is critical for faculty and administrators.  The kind of work people do is central to social status - there is a large literature on occupational prestige.  Looking closely where people work is a critical part of social status.  Working at a high prestige campus has higher social status than working at a lower prestige campus.  Most campus public affairs offices publicize the campus as excelling in some area so that the rest of campus can bask in reflected glory.  Key phrases describing a campus enter into common language.  For example this was brought to my attention by a colleague:  "We are a world class campus." My question would be why faculty and administrators feel a need to affirm and create a specific kind of status.  Is the status created so that the faculty and administrator can accept the reflected high prestige.  Do faculty and administrators on low prestige campuses soft pedal their institutional affiliation in order to avoid reflected low prestige?

Positional goods can be purchased, sports team affiliation can change, and accounting behavior employed to explain the losing season.  “Well, it was a building year.”  And yet, reflected social status is a stronger source of social class attributed identity than are individual accomplishments.  For one thing, it is easier to see reflected social status through the sigils on display.  It is far harder to see accomplishments.  

The Barratt Simplified Measure of Social Status (BSMSS)



Will Barratt, Ph.D.
Indiana State University
June 14, 2012

This measure is built on the work of Hollingshead (1957, 1975) who devised a simple measure of Social Status based on marital status, retired/employed status (retired individuals used their last occupation) educational attainment, and occupational prestige.  This is a measure of social status, which is a proxy for socio-economic status.  This is not a measure of social class, which is best seen as a cultural identity.  An individual’s or their parents’ educational attainment and occupational prestige can change over their life. Social class, especially social class of origin identity, stays with each person throughout their life similar to gender identity and ethnic identity.
Two important changes have been made to the Hollingshead Four Factor measure of social status as it was transformed into the BSMSS.  First, the list of occupations has been updated based on the work of Davis, Smith, Hodge, Hakao, and Treas (1991) who calculated occupational prestige ratings from the 1989 general social survey.  Hollingshead originally had 9 occupational groups, so the 1989 data was divided into 9 groups.  To develop the dividing lines between the 9 groups the distribution of the "Prestige Score" was examined closely.  Scores ranged from 86 for Physician to 17 for Miscellaneous Food Preparation Occupations, however, below Physician there was a gap of eleven points until the next occupation of Lawyer, and 30 occupations ranked as a 74.  Clearly the "Prestige Score" would not lend itself to a readily apparent set of 9 divisions.
It was decided to use a 6 or 7 point spread for each of the 9 divisions, using judgments for the dividing line based on the fall-off, or scree, of the plotted scores.  Once the 9 divisions had been made raters were asked to identify typical, or common, occupations from within each group to use as the descriptors in the instrument.
The second change was to recognize the generational shift in social status. The BSMSS accounts for an individual's parent's educational attainment and occupational prestige and combines that with the individual's own family's educational attainment and occupational prestige.  An arbitrary weighting was given of 2:1 for Individual's family scores to parent's family scores.  Social class mobility, in the US, is a fact of life.  As with all identities growth is an aggregating process, so we all carry identities from our family of origin into our attained identity of the moment.  The choice of a 2:1 weighting recognized that the individual's current identity is the most important.
Hollingshead's original conceptualization of educational attainment has been maintained faithfully, as has his weighting of educational attainment to occupational prestige of 3:5.
The BSMSS does not produce a measure of SES in any absolute sense.  A discussion of the larger issues of SES is not the point here; suffice it to say that no classic definition of SES, or even the larger issue of social class, exists.  The score that results from this measure is ordinal only. It is sufficient for regression analysis or for creating social status groups based on the data collected.  The BSMSS is not designed to identify any individual or group as belonging to any particular social class, or socio-economic status, or social status.
Note please that assumptions about a mother’s or father’s contribution to an individual’s social class are Hollingshead’s. Stay-at-home mothers are not included in this calculation even though we know that mothers are an important influence on children.
Psychometric properties: Reliability is not an appropriate question to evaluate the BSMSS because this is not a scale.  Validity is appropriate as a question and as with all demographic questions the researcher must determine if the question does in fact reflect the question being asked.  Essentially the BSMSS provides a demographic question to help frame an understanding of the individual participants in a study. 

For permission to use the BSMSS or for a list of articles and dissertations that have used the BSMSS please contact the author at will dot barratt at indstate dot edu.  This material had originally be posted on the author's campus website and has now been moved here to in order to adapt to emerging technology and server space.

EDIT - SES is not social class

References

Davis, J., Smith, T., Hodge, R., Nakao, K., & Treas, J. (1991). Occupational prestige ratings from the 1989 general social survey. Ann Arbor MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research.

Hollingshead, August B. (1957). Two factor index of social position. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Hollingshead, A. B. (1975). Four factor index of social status. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
   

This material is not available for use without permission from the author.  Permission will be freely given for research and there is a cost for commercial/business use.  Email will dot barratt at indstate dot edu with a description of your study and assurances that you have appropriate approvals for your research.  


The Barratt Simplified Measure of Social Status (BSMSS)
Will Barratt, Ph.D.

Circle the appropriate number for your Mother’s, your Father’s, your Spouse / Partner's, and your level of school completed and occupation. If you grew up in a single parent home, circle only the score from your one parent. If you are neither married nor partnered circle only your score. If you are a full time student circle only the scores for your parents.

Level of School Completed
Mother
Father
Spouse You
Less than 7th grade
3
3
3
3
Junior high / Middle school (9th grade)
6
6
6
6
Partial high school (10th or 11th grade)
9
9
9
9
High school graduate
12
12
12
12
Partial college (at least one year)
15
15
15
15
College education
18
18
18
18
Graduate degree
21
21
21
21

Circle the appropriate number for your Mother’s, your Father’s , your Spouse / Partner's, and your occupation. If you grew up in a single parent home, use only the score from your parent. If you are not married or partnered circle only your score. If you are still a full-time student only circle the scores for your parents. If you are retired use your most recent occupation.

Occupation
Mother
Father
Spouse
You
Day laborer, janitor, house cleaner, farm worker, food counter sales, food preparation worker, busboy.
5
5
5
5
Garbage collector, short-order cook, cab driver, shoe sales, assembly line workers, masons, baggage porter.
10
10
10
10
Painter, skilled construction trade, sales clerk, truck driver, cook, sales counter or general office clerk.
15
15
15
15
Automobile mechanic, typist, locksmith, farmer, carpenter, receptionist, construction laborer, hairdresser.
20
20
20
20
Machinist, musician, bookkeeper, secretary, insurance sales, cabinet maker, personnel specialist, welder.
25
25
25
25
Supervisor, librarian, aircraft mechanic, artist and artisan, electrician, administrator, military enlisted personnel, buyer.
30
30
30
30
Nurse, skilled technician, medical technician, counselor, manager, police and fire personnel, financial manager, physical, occupational, speech therapist.
35
35
35
35
Mechanical, nuclear, and electrical engineer,  educational administrator, veterinarian, military officer, elementary, high school and special education teacher,
40
40
40
40
Physician, attorney, professor, chemical and aerospace engineer, judge, CEO, senior manager, public official, psychologist, pharmacist, accountant.
45
45
45
45


Level of School Completed Scoring
1
If you grew up with both parents add Mother + Father and divide by 2.
If you grew up with one parent enter that score to the right.


2
If you are married or partnered add Spouse + You and divide by 2.
If you live alone enter Your score to the right.
If you are a full-time student leave this blank.


3
Double your score from line 2.
If you are a full-time student leave this blank.


4
If you are a full-time student enter only your parents’ score.
Add line 1 and line 3 then divide by 3 (three) for a TOTAL EDUCATION
Score should be between 3 and 21




Occupation Scoring
1
If you grew up with both parents add Mother + Father and divide by 2.
If you grew up with one parent enter that score to the right.


2
If you are married or partnered add Spouse + You and divide by 2.
If you live alone enter Your score to the right.
If you are a full-time student leave this blank.


3
Double your score from line 2.
If you are a full-time student leave this blank.


4
If you are a full-time student enter only your parents’ score.
Add line 1 and line 3 then divide by 3 (three) for TOTAL OCCUPATION
Score should be between 5 and 45


TOTAL Score:


Add TOTAL EDUCATION + TOTAL OCCUPATION:
Score should be between 8 and 66



This material is protected under US copyright law and international treaty.  If you would like to use this material please contact the author for permission.  A list of publications that has used this measure is available from the author at will dot barratt at indstate dot edu