Socio-economic indexes in surveys for comparisons between countries

J. M. Batista-Foguet, J. Fortiana, C. Currie, J. R. Villalbí

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The study of socio-economic inequalities from across-national perspective has been hampered by the lack of adequate common indices of socio-economic status that can be used in a self-report survey instrument. This paper examines the construction and the properties of global social indexes in general, and of the Family Affluence Scale (henceforth FAS) in particular. The paper proposes a new strategy for making comparisons of the global index with stratified data, building a revised FAS based on Adapted Canonical Variate Analysis (henceforth ACVA). This alternative strategy for constructing a global index is available in standard software, and the new proposal for stratified data only requires a simple program, which is justified, explained and provided in the text. Data come from the 1998 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC), a WHO Cross-National Study using cluster sampling of schoolchildren from five countries: Denmark, Latvia, Portugal, Scotland and the USA. The results reveal that in every country we would have had a completely different evaluation of the three indicators of Family Affluence if we had used either linear or nonlinear approaches to compute the global indexes. Moreover, Family Affluence comparisons among countries shows that the relative contribution of the three indicators to the overall FAS, changes from country to country. We conclude that separate indicators of Family Affluence are not equally relevant in each country and, as a consequence, do not contribute equally to the global index. For cross-cultural studies, the strategy for constructing an index should be country specific. The methodological developments presented in the paper open up opportunities to study socio-economic patterning of health among young people in the developed world, since selfcompleted surveys can now employ a common measure of family material wealth. The findings show that the RFAS (Revised FAS) is a useful index of socio-economic status for use in national and cross-national surveys of adolescent health and health behaviour. The new strategy for weighting observed indicators in the index gives it enhanced power to detect inequalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-332
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Canonical variate analysis
  • Health-behaviour
  • Optimal scaling
  • Social inequalities
  • Socio-economic indexes
  • Summated rating scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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