Social Grade


Social grade is a classification system based on occupation.

It was developed for use on the NRS, and for over 50 years NRS has been the research industry’s source of social grade data.

The classifications are as follows:

% of population (NRS 2015)
A Higher managerial, administrative and professional 4
B Intermediate managerial, administrative and professional 23
C1 Supervisory, clerical and junior managerial, administrative and professional 27
C2 Skilled manual workers 21
D Semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers< 16
E State pensioners, casual and lowest grade workers, unemployed with state benefits only 9

The NRS interview includes detailed questions about the occupation of the Chief Income Earner (CIE) to establish social grade. Questions include not just what the CIE’s job is, but details such as their qualifications and the number of people they are responsible for.

The household is classified according to the CIE’s occupation, but social grade data are also available for the respondent themselves (if they are not the CIE).

Income is not part of the social grade classification. However there is a strong correlation between income and social grade as the following chart shows.


Some people have questioned the relevance of social grade as society becomes more diverse, and targeting more precise.

Social grade was never intended to describe every aspect of society. Nor does it describe consumer motivations. Its on-going value lies in its discriminatory power as a relatively simple target group indicator.

The following charts show some examples of the discriminatory power of social grade – first in terms of consumer behaviour and then media behaviour.



A wide range of other data are available for use in combination with social grade, including age, income, family stage, lifestyle etc.

There are also other classification systems available on the NRS which can be used as well as or instead of social grade. These include:

  • The Government grading of social class (NS-SEC)
  • Financial ACORN
  • Financial Mosaic