Measuring the Socioeconomic Position of Adolescents: A Proposal for a Composite Index
Despite evidence that socioeconomic inequalities impact health, studies on adolescents are limited and often show contradictory results depending on the measures employed to evaluate socioeconomic position. Little research has focused on the differential impact of each indicator on adolescent health, and few measures have been developed that provide a global evaluation. In this research, the relationship between classic socioeconomic indicators (education and occupation) and others that have been proposed more recently (family affluence scale and subjective family wealth) is analysed. A composite global score of socioeconomic position is also presented, based on the principal objective dimensions: parental education, parental occupation and family material wealth. Data were collected in Spain, in 2014, within the framework of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study, from a representative national sample of 8739 adolescents aged between 11 and 16 (mean = 13.72, SD = 1.71). The results contribute to resolving methodological difficulties associated with the evaluation of adolescent socioeconomic position, showing the unidimensionality of a global measure of objective wealth and demonstrating it to be a useful instrument for assessing the socioeconomic position in health inequalities research. The subjective perception of wealth presented a similar, and even higher, association with health than the objective measures. However, low correlations between perceived family wealth and the objective socioeconomic indicators (oscillating between .110 and .299) proved to measure a different construct, and thus was not included in the composite measure for assessing the adolescents’ objective socioeconomic position. Results highlighted the importance of including different indicators for measuring socioeconomic inequalities in adolescent health.
KeywordsSocioeconomic indicators Adolescence Parental occupation Parental educational level Subjective socioeconomic status Family affluence
The 2014 edition of the HBSC study in Spain was supported by an agreement signed by the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Policy and Equality and the University of Seville. In addition, this work was supported by the Andalusian Department of Economy, Innovation, Science and Employment through a grant received by Concepción Moreno-Maldonado in the framework of the program Incentivos a Proyectos de Investigación de Excelencia (Incentives for Research Projects of Excellence, Ref. SEJ 08007).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The Spanish questionnaire was approved by the University of Seville Ethics Committee, and informed consent was obtined from the schools, legal guardians an the students themselves.
Conflicts of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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