What are the Different Types of Socio-Economic Groups?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Socio-economic groups are divisions of people by income and occupation. In the study of economics and sociology, a person's income or occupation has been shown to be related to various social trends and values. The major types of socio-economic groups are usually divided in terms of job responsibility as it correlated to income levels. Dividing people into socio-economic groups is usually done to help interpret market forecasting; how a tax cut will affect citizens might be analyzed by breaking the larger population into more manageable groups by income.

Individuals can change socioeconomic class, as happened when Henry Ford went from being a farmer to a leading industrialist.
Individuals can change socioeconomic class, as happened when Henry Ford went from being a farmer to a leading industrialist.

Different economic theories may divide socio-economic groups slightly differently, but the general categories include executives, high-level managerial, mid-level managerial, skilled laborers, semi-skilled workers, and irregular workers or those that do not work. Executives and high level managers tend to have the highest incomes, while semi-skilled and unskilled laborers typically have the lowest among those who work regularly.. Another way to describe these divisions may be upper-middle class, middle class, working class, and non-working.

Skilled laborers typically have more education and training than unskilled laborers.
Skilled laborers typically have more education and training than unskilled laborers.

Different socio-economic groups often have certain factors in common that make them useful for market research and analysis. For instance, children of upper-middle class families are generally more likely to attend college than children of unskilled laborers. While this generalization does not mean that children of unskilled laborers cannot or universally do not attend college, this data may be used to help generate scholarship and student loan programs based on financial need in order to help more children from low-income families attend college. Socio-economic groups may be employed for nearly any type of market research, from analyzing the use of contraceptives to the likelihood of cocaine addiction across socioeconomic lines.

The characteristics of each socio-economic group may be different in different nations and cultures. For instance, in a country with a long association between wealth and religion, upper-middle class families might be more likely to participate in religious activities. In general, however, higher income classes typically will have greater access to education, career opportunities, and health care. Part of the reason why socio-economic research is important is that it helps determine the areas of society in which income greatly divides access to basic human necessities, and can help create possible solutions to these discrepancies.

It is a mistake to assume that socio-economic groups hold universal truths, for instance that all non-working people are lazy and content to live off the state, or that all wealthy people are political conservatives. Overgeneralizing socio-economic grouping can easily lead to prejudice and the oversimplification of complex issues. When examining data broken down into these groups, it is important to remember that there are exceptions to every rule, and that no single factor, such as income, can universally determine the characteristics, habits, and personalities of all individuals.

People living in extreme poverty are one kind of socio-economic group.
People living in extreme poverty are one kind of socio-economic group.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


Socio-economic groups are a social reality. Even though it plays out a little differently in each society and country, prejudices exist everywhere. There is a tendency to favor certain socio-economic groups and moving from one group to another is not as easy as it seems.

If we look at the socio-economic demographics of the US, I'm sure we will see the same exact issues. Even though the distinction and prejudices among social groups may not be as problematic as in some countries, it's still an issue in our society. If one asks a billionaire about prejudice, he may claim that there is none. But if we were to ask someone residing in a low income housing in Chicago, the answer will be very different.

I'm not claiming that poor socio-economic groups are the only targets of prejudice. Those belonging to wealthy socio-economic groups may feel that they are disadvantaged as well. Take for example the sentiments of wealthy Americans about taxes.


@ZipLine-- I'm not an expert on this topic but I'll try to help.

In a democracy, different socio-economic groups should be given equal opportunities. In a society, people who belong to wealthier socio-economic groups naturally have more opportunities available to them. So it is the role of government to help create equal opportunities for all its citizens regardless of their socio-economic group. For example, government may start programs to help children of lower socio-economic groups to receive education. Or health care and financial aid programs may be started.

In the US, programs like "No Child Left Behind," food stamps and college scholarships are examples of how government tries to make opportunities equal for different socio-economic groups.

Also, social mobility, or the ability of people to move between one social economic class to another, is a measurement of democracy.


We are studying socio-economic groups in class this week. I need to know what importance social economic groups hold for democracy before class. Does anyone know? Can you give me some ideas?

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