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NRS social grade

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The NRS social grades are a system of demographic classification used in the United Kingdom. They were originally developed by the National Readership Survey (NRS) to classify readers, but have since been used by many other organisations for wider applications and have become a standard for market research.[1] They were developed in the late 1950s and refined in following years and achieved widespread usage in 20th century Britain. Their definition is maintained by the Market Research Society.[2]

According to Ipsos, NRS social grade is not the same as social class.[3] The distinguishing feature of the NRS social grade is that it is based on occupation, rather than income, wealth or property ownership.


The classifications are based on the occupation of the head of the household.[1] The grades are often grouped into ABC1 and C2DE, representing 55% and 45% of the population in 2016 respectively.[4]

Grade Chief income earner's occupation Frequency in 1968 - Ipsos[3] Frequency in 2008 - Ipsos[3] Frequency in 2016 - NRS[4]
A Higher managerial roles, administrative or professional 12% 4% 4%
B Intermediate managerial roles, administrative or professional 23% 23%
C1 Supervisory or clerical and junior managerial roles, administrative or professional 22% 29% 28%
C2 Skilled manual workers 65% 21% 20%
D Semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers 15% 15%
E State pensioners, casual and lowest grade workers, unemployed with state benefits only. 8% 10%

Only around 2% of the UK population identifies as upper class,[5] and this group is not separated by the classification scheme.

The grading system is also sometimes used in the Republic of Ireland with the addition of a Class F signifying Farmers and Agricultural Workers.


Since the creation of the system, the size of the white-collar groupings (ABC1) grew from 34% in 1968, to 55% of the population in 2016. Within this section, the professional and managerial groupings (A and B) doubled, from only 12% in 1968 to 27% in 2016.[3][4] C2DE has shrunk over this period from 65% to 45% of the population. With pensioners and unemployed people included in C2DE, this means that ABC1 represents a majority of the working population.

A 2019 YouGov poll found that 41% of ABC1 identified themselves as working class (and 51% as middle class), while 66% of C2DEs identified themselves as working class (and 25% as middle class). Matthew Smith, Head of Data Journalism at YouGov, said that while NRS groupings "are often used as shorthand to refer to the middle class and working class", "the problem is that the NRS social grade was never designed to describe class".[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wilmshurst, J. & MacKay, A., The Fundamentals of Advertising, (1999)
  2. ^ Occupation groupings: a job dictionary. Market Research Society Archived 29 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine, London, 2006.
  3. ^ a b c d "Social Grade: A Classification Tool" (PDF). Ipsos. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 March 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Social Grade | National Readership Survey". www.nrs.co.uk. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  5. ^ Glover, Julian (20 October 2007). "Riven by class and no social mobility - Britain in 2007". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  6. ^ Smith, Matthew (19 November 2019). "How well do ABC1 and C2DE correspond with our own class identity? | YouGov". yougov.co.uk. YouGov. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  7. ^ "Why claims from polls about what 'working class people' think are usually wrong". The Independent. 25 November 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2024.

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