The concepts of socioeconomic status (SES) and class are pervasive in sociological studies, yet an examination of the sociological and social science literature suggests a lack of consensus on their conceptual meaning and measurement. Our review focuses on the use of SES and class in a specific substantive field, studies of child health and fertility in developing countries. We discuss the mechanisms that underlie the relationship between SES and fertility and child health and the divergent results found in this field. We then provide a brief review of the theoretical literature on SES and class, contrasting unitary and component views. Following this is a section on the use of SES and class in empirical studies of child health and fertility in developing countries. We investigate the relationship between the conceptual and empirical literature, highlighting the inconsistencies we find. In addition, we discuss the variety of meanings and measures of SES that researchers use in these studies. Next, we address a series of methodological issues that arise from the review. Finally, we make recommendations for the treatment of SES and class in these and related areas.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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