Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

Student: Christian Galbraith
Supervisor: Prof Peter Davis
Sponsor: Social Science Research Centre (SSRC), University of Canterbury


The New Zealand Socio-Economic index 1996 (NZSEI-96) [Davis et al, 2003] is an occupationally derived measure of socio-economic status (SES). Originally developed using data from the 1991 New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings (NZSEI-91) [Davis et al, 1997], it has recently been updated using 1996 Census data (NZSEI-96). The theoretical basis of the NZSEI is the 'returns to human capital' model of social stratification - this looks at the way cultural capital (education) is translated into material rewards (income). By applying a model equation to data on income, education and age, a score is generated for each of the 97 occupations listed at the 3-digit level in the New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (NZSCO). These scores can be used in a variety of ways to assign individuals a position within a stratified socio-economic order. Although developed in a health context, the NZSEI-96 is a research tool applicable in a variety of social research settings.

A 'users guide'* to the NZSEI-96 was deemed useful for a number of reasons. These reasons included; the fact that a number of users of the NZSEI-91 had questions regarding its use; the original had a number of limitations that discouraged some users (although these have largely been addressed in the NZSEI-96 update); the full NZSEI technical reports are lengthy and complex; and pitfalls associated with obtaining occupational data for respondents in survey questionnaires. In general, it was felt that such a guide would make the NZSEI a more accessible research tool.

The content of this users' guide includes a summary of the construction and validation of the NZSEI-96 so users are provided with an accessible introduction to the NZSEI-96. A second section outlines how to use the NZSEI-96, with examples of its application in previous research. A large proportion of this section is dedicated to providing advice on the 'best practise' for obtaining individual occupational information. Section 2 also describes the process for assigning SES position in the absence of occupational information. A third section discusses the advantages and limitations of the NZSEI-96 as a measure of socio-economic status. A frequently asked questions section has also been included. The appendix to the guide lists NZSEI scores.

It is hoped that the provision of the information in the NZSEI-96 User's Guide will assist researchers in understanding and using the index. At the same time, it is intended to provide researchers with information on using the index correctly and avoiding common mistakes and difficulties.


  • Davis, P., Jenkin, G. and Coope, P. (2003) NZSEI-96: an update and revision of the New Zealand Socio-economic index of Occupational Status, Statistics New Zealand, Wellington.
  • Davis, P., McLeod, K., Ransom, et al (1997) The New Zealand Socioeconomic index of Occupational Status (NZSEI): Research Report #2, Statistics New Zealand, Wellington.

* This guide will be a companion document to the NZSEI-96 technical report and available separately.

Back to top