Coincidentally with the proto sociological stances of Engels and Virchow there

Coincidentally with the proto sociological stances of

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Coincidentally with the proto-sociological stances of Engels and Virchow, there emerged in the UK especially, a form of social accounting consonant with their ‘theories’ but focused on Health inequalities 131 Ó 2011 The Author Sociology of Health & Illness Ó 2011 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness/Blackwell Publishing Ltd
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social patterning (that is, more epidemiological than sociological). From the outset positive associations between absolute and relative poverty and a diminution in health and longevity were apparent. Until 2000, and dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century, two socioeconomic classifications (SECs), sometimes taken as proxies for the more theoretical notions of class developed by the likes of Marx and Engels, featured in many government- sponsored reports as well as in much of the peer-reviewed literature: ‘social class based on occupation’ (SC, formerly Registrar General’s Social Class) and Socioeconomic Group (SEG). Neither classification was compelling, either as a proxy for class or as a representation of employment relations, recognition of which resulted in their eventual displacement by the National Statistics Socioeconomic Classification (NS-SEC), derived from the neo-Weberian ‘Goldthorpe Scheme’ (Rose and Pevalin 2003). The conceptual base for the NS-SEC is the structure of employment relations operating in modern developed economies like the UK. Occupations are differentiated in terms of reward mechanisms, promotion prospects, autonomy and job security. The most advantaged NS-SEC classes (higher managerial and professional) typically exhibit personalised reward structures, have good opportunities for advancement, relatively high levels of autonomy within the job, and are relatively secure (these attributes tending to be reversed for the most disadvantaged, or routine, class) (Langford and Johnson 2010). In their recent review of the literature, on class, SECs and health, Muntaner et al . (2010) make the point that the use of NS-SEC is spreading from the UK to Europe and further afield, and, as a measure of employment relations, is of interest and significance for health inequalities in its own right (see Rose and Harrison 2009). The fact that classificatory schema like NS-SEC are considerably removed from Marxian-oriented theorisations of social class circumscribes without undermining their relevance for sociology of health inequalities (Wright 2009). As far as England and Wales are concerned, the changes captured through studies of a succession of SECs on the one hand, and, say, life expectancy on the other, are unambiguous. They reveal an upward trend in life expectancy for men and women across the SEC spectrum. However, the improvement in life expectancy has been ‘more rapid among those at the top than the bottom of the socioeconomic hierarchy’ (Graham 2009: 12). The same pattern is evident in other developed or high-income countries (Mackenbach 2005). The latest data from the Office of National Statistics for England and Wales, using NS-SEC, are consistent with this broad-brush summary. A study of male mortality between 2001 and
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