Development and initial testing of a new socioeconomic status measure based on housing data

Young J. Juhn, Timothy J. Beebe, Dawn M. Finnie, Jeff Sloan, Philip H. Wheeler, Barbara Yawn, Arthur R. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Socioeconomic status (SES) has been associated with many health outcomes. Commonly used datasets such as medical records often lack data on SES but do include address information. The authors sought to determine whether an SES measure derived from housing characteristics is associated with other SES measures and outcomes known to be associated with SES. The data come from a telephone survey of parents/guardians of children aged 1-17 years who resided in Olmsted County, Minnesota, and Jackson County, Missouri. Seven variables related to housing and six neighborhood characteristics obtained from local government assessor's offices in Olmsted County, Minnesota, were appended to survey responses. An SES index derived from housing characteristics (hereafter, HOUSES) was constructed using principal components factor analysis. For criterion validity, we assessed Pearson's correlation coefficients between HOUSES and other SES measures, including self-reported parents' educational levels, income, Hollingshead Index, and Nakao-Treas Index. For construct validity, we determined the association between HOUSES and outcomes, risks of low birth weight, overweight, and smoking exposure at home. We applied HOUSES to subjects in another community by formulating HOUSES from housing data of subjects in Jackson County, Missouri, using the same statistical algorithm as HOUSES for subjects in Olmsted County, Minnesota. We found that HOUSES had modest to good correlation with other SES measures. Overall, as hypothesized, HOUSES was inversely associated with outcome measures assessed among subjects from both counties. HOUSES may be a useful surrogate measure of individual SES in epidemiologic research, especially when SES measures for individuals are not available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)933-944
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Juliette Liesinger and Heshan Lieu for data analysis support. We are indebted to county staff in the Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department in Olmsted County, Minnesota, and to Joan Pu, data analyst, and Dr. Mark Funkhouser, mayor, Office of the Mayor, Kansas City, Missouri. This work has been presented at the 2008 Pediatric Academic Society Annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii in May, 2008. This work was supported by a National Institutes of Health Grant (R21 HD51902) from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.


  • Epidemiology
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Neighborhood
  • Socioeconomic status


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