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The importance of specificity in occupation‐based social classifications

Paul S. Lambert (Department of Applied Social Science, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)
Koon Leai Larry Tan (Department of Computing Science and Mathematics, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)
Kenneth Prandy (Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Vernon Gayle (Department of Applied Social Science, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK, and)
Manfred Max Bergman (Department of Sociology, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 20 June 2008




This paper aims to present reasons why social classifications which use occupations should seek to adopt “specific” approaches which are tailored to the country, time period and gender of the subjects under study.


The relative motivations for adopting a specific approach to social classifications are discussed and theoretical perspectives on specificity and empirical evidence on the contribution of specific approaches are reviewed. Also the practical costs of implementing specific social classifications are evaluated, and the authors' development of the “GEODE” data service (grid‐enabled occupational data environment), which seeks to assist this process, is discussed.


Specific approaches make a non‐trivial difference to the conclusions drawn from analyses of occupation‐based social classifications. It is argued that the GEODE service has reduced the practical challenges of implementing specific measures.

Research limitations/implications

There remain conceptual and pragmatic challenges in working with specific occupation‐based social classifications. Non‐specific (“universal”) measures are adequate for many purposes.

Practical implications

The paper argues that there are few excuses for ignoring specific occupation‐based social classifications.


The paper demonstrates that recent technological developments have shifted the balance in the long‐standing debate between universal and specific approaches to occupation‐based social classifications.



Lambert, P.S., Leai Larry Tan, K., Prandy, K., Gayle, V. and Max Bergman, M. (2008), "The importance of specificity in occupation‐based social classifications", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 28 No. 5/6, pp. 179-192.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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