In what kind of situation is the reputational method the most useful for determining social class?

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annekld eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are three basic methods that sociologists use to measure social class. These are the objective method, the subjective method and the reputational method. The objective method uses a strict set of data points and criteria for determining class. This often includes income, education and career type. The subjective method asks people what social class they think that they fit into, relying only on the subjects self-perception. The reputational method is based on what class other members of the same social group think that subject belongs to. Often a small set of group members are selected by sociologists to rank the other group members in terms of class relative to the group.

Each of these methods have different situations for which they are useful. The reputational method is most useful in figuring out the social structure of small groups where members of the population know each other. The closer in relationship the members of a community are, the more accurate the class findings. This is a way of understanding the social class of a subject as seen by other members of the same community. While this may differ from how a subject sees himself or herself, it is more reliable than the subjective method when investigating rolls and stratifications within a community as a whole.