American Sociological Review

Date: 1955

Show Summary


The Economic Order


The Status of Jobs and Occupations as Evaluated by an Urban Negro Sample1

This paper is a brief report of a study dealing with the status of jobs and occupations as evaluated by Negroes of Columbus, Ohio. The author attempted to make a small-scale test of the hypothesis that Negro evaluation of jobs and occupations differs significantly from that of white Americans as reflected in the North-Hart job-scale of the mid-1940’s.2 The latter scale includes ninety different jobs of varying occupational levels as evaluated by a nation-wide cross-section of the adult white U. S. population. North and Hart discovered that white respondents gave the highest status rating to the U. S. Supreme Court Justice. Physician and State Governor tied for second place, with Cabinet Member in the Federal Government, Diplomat in the U. S. Foreign Service, and Mayor of a Large City occupying the next highest positions, in descending order. Respondents gave the lowest prestige or status ratings to the jobs of Bartender, Janitor, Garbage Collector, Street-sweeper, and Shoe shiner.

Since the North-Hatt study, new considerations have arisen with respect to how Negroes might have rated the occupations, or how the total list of jobs might have appeared in scalar order had Negro persons been included in the study sample. Interest in the evaluations by Negroes may have had its genesis partly in the finding that characteristic attitudes and values derive from the social and cultural setting, and that, due to conditions which differentiate the white and Negro populations sociologically, Negroes tend at times to respond to social and economic factors quite unlike the larger population. Among the purposes of the present study, therefore, were the following: (1) to discover the evaluation of a list of jobs and occupations by Negro respondents; (2) to determine how the obtained evaluation compared with that of white Americans during 1947 as reflected in the nation-wide North-Hatt study,3 and (3) to attempt to arrive at some attributes of job prestige and, thereby, obtain total measurements of values (jobs) through the technique of measuring specific identifiable components.


A list of 129 jobs and occupations was obtained by interviewing adult Negroes who lived in various sections of the city of Columbus, Ohio and who were thought to be representative of all socio-economic categories.4 These jobs were ranked by a sample of thirty Negroes from various socio-economic backgrounds by the use of the 5-point alternate response scale used by North and Hatt.5 When the obtained rankings of sixty-five of the jobs were correlated with the rankings which these same sixty-five occupations received in the North-Hatt study, a +.92 rho resulted. Ten jobs from each extreme of the obtained continuum of occupations were then listed on 3″ by 5″ cards, labelled Card A and Card B, and respondents were asked, randomly, to state factors which they thought differentiated one set of jobs as a whole from the other, the assumption being, of course, that the two sets of jobs were of dissimilar status levels. The procedure was continued until, instead of new suggestions, the responses tended to represent mere extensions of previously obtained information. This latter technique was an attempt to "get behind" the prestige rankings in order to obtain some knowledge with respect to the configuration of factors or "inner qualities" assessed by persons as having relationship to the status rankings. It was noted, accordingly, that respondents designated the "better jobs" as those which appeared at the upper extreme of the aforementioned job continuum, and which were listed on Card A. Respondents characterized the jobs listed on Card A as follows:

1. The jobs were greatly necessary for the public welfare.

2. Persons within the community who performed the jobs were accorded more than usual respect.

3. The jobs were clean.

4. Extensive education or training was required for entry into the jobs.

5. In terms of talent or skill, persons who could perform the jobs were rare.

6. Good salaries were earned.

7. The jobs afforded considerable leisure time for recreation and/or vacations.

8. Persons performing the jobs were accepted as authorities in the community.

9. The occupations had high standings which could be traced back into history.

10. Great muscular effort or physical exertion was not required when performing the jobs.

11. The jobs had a religious-moral-altruistic tradition in connection with the social life of the people.

No respondent, singly, suggested all of the eleven a priori items; rather, the above dimensions or "inner qualities" were thought to be especially associated with high-status jobs by a cross-section of the adult Negro population of Columbus, which included housewives, laborers, business and professional persons, college students, "men on the street," and others, each of whom jotted down his or her viewpoints on sheets of paper which were supplied for this purpose. The total viewpoints were broken down by a panel of three sociologists and classified under thirteen relatively distinct headings. Two of the categories—"Job permanence" and "Relative absence of physical danger in connection with job performance"—were later discarded because items pertaining to these categories had been suggested by too few respondents.6

Although the above items or dimensions were recognized as not mutually exclusive, a 5-point arbitrary response scale was devised to measure the degree to which a final study sample of 200 respondents would feel that the specific attribute denoted in each statement is associated with each job.…

Standardization of the Instrument. With respect to validity, high and low scores of selected occupations, after use of the instrument, tended to conform to the generalized evaluations of persons who were interviewed during the early stages of the investigation, and with common-sense judgments. At the same time, the instrument threw statistical light upon the problem at hand.

Concerning reliability, the instrument was tested by having the thirty original judges re-rate each job in terms of the eleven dimensions, a Pearsonian r of +.83 resulting. A retest four weeks later among the same thirty judges yielded a Pearso-nian r of +.89. When the scores obtained in the latter operation were correlated with the verbal scores which the jobs originally had received, a Pearsonian r of +.81 obtained. A version of the split-half technique—separately computing the rankings of males and females, and correlating these with each ether—yielded a rho of +.91.

The Sample. In this investigation the study sample consisted of 200 persons who were obtained by random selection from the universe of 46,000 Negro residents of Columbus. The sample was based in part upon data obtained through study of the Seventeenth Census of the United States. Examination of census figures pertaining to characteristics of the Negro population of Columbus with special reference to the local housing of Negroes, number of persons per dwelling unit, sex ratio, and related data, revealed that a representative study sample could be secured through field visits to every seventh house in each of the four predominantly Negro districts of the city. In pursuing this plan, provisions were made for inclusion in the sample of "secondary families"—those living in the households of other people. In the place of thirteen persons who were never found at home, substitutions were made from the specific streets or neighborhoods concerned. The factors of sex, approximate age, home ownership, occupation, and type or worth of house lived in, were held constant in the substitution process. Chi-square tests revealed that the obtained sample did not differ significantly from the non-white universe in terms of sex, age, educational, and occupational characteristics.

Although the original study dealt with a comparison of the status scores of sixty-five jobs, Table 1 presents the scores of only forty-five of the more representative jobs and occupations as evaluated by the study sample of 200 respondents.


Table 1 discloses that many of the North-Hatt mean scores which pertain to the jobs under comparison are similar to the mean scores in this study. The combined mean score for the total sixty-five jobs as rated by the nation-wide sample of whites was 72.16, with a standard deviation of 15.66. The combined mean score for the sixty-five jobs, as rated by the 200 Negro respondents of Columbus, Ohio, was 71.60, with a standard deviation of 14.74. The critical ratio for the difference between the two combined mean scores was .52 (insignificant), while the Pearsonian correlation between the two columns of mean scores was found to be +.94, with standard error of +.01.

Notwithstanding the general conformity in ratings between the two samples, there were eleven instances (italicized in Table 1) in which the rating of a job by the Negro respondents was five or more points lower than the rating by the North-Hatt sample. Among jobs having great variation in mean score are those of Farm Tenant and Farm Owner. These deviations by Negro respondents from the nation-wide ratings may be interpreted as responses related to the life experiences of the population under study, and as expressive of tendencies implicit in the established social relations. Personal background data pertaining to the sample revealed that 55 per cent were born, and partly reared, in southern United States. It is probable that some of these persons, when rating the above jobs, may have associated farm tenancy with inequitable landlord-tenant relations, based in poverty and exploitation—a phenomenon with which some respondents from southern areas were familiar. As a matter of fact, subsequent interviews revealed that some respondents, when commenting upon the status and role of the Farm Tenant, made frequent reference to "unfair crop share," "poor schools," and "lack of … [technical] … devices"—characteristic land-tenure conditions associated with the farm tenancy of the southern region in past decades. It is likely, furthermore, that relative cultural isolation and the unequal competition encountered by rural Negroes for productive farm lands may have been associated, in similar manner, with the related job of Farm Owner. Irrespective of whether these aforementioned phenomena are real or fancied in the South today, such background experiences on the part of a responding population would be expected to be reflected objectively in the job ratings.

With respect to other italicized jobs in Table 1, data of U. S. Bureau of the Census reveal that Negro workers are greatly underrepresented in each of them. The latter suggests that the discrepancy in the ratings of many of these remaining jobs may have resulted to some extent from relative unfamiliarity of respondents with the jobs, in addition, of course, to numerous other factors.

Concerning the ten jobs (capitalized in Table 1) which were rated at least five points higher by the Negro study sample than by white respondents in the North-Hatt study, it may be stated that Negro workers have not as yet had the opportunity to participate freely in the economic spirit and tradition of urban, competitive, community life. As a consequence of this differentiation, it sometimes has been assumed that selected jobs might be assessed more valuable or prestigeful by Negroes from the standpoint of the status and meaning of these jobs in the restricted Negro society than when evaluated from a broader perspective. The jobs of School Teacher, Mortician,



and Social Worker particularly have been known to represent the "top" jobs at which Negro persons are employed in many cities. When considered in terms of this study, the disparities in the mean scores of these jobs suggest a differential evaluation.

Moreover, it should be pointed out that the matter of limited occupational employment for urban Negroes constitutes a problem-situation which is observed with rather considerable concern by some social actionists, and consequent efforts directed toward the expansion of job opportunities for Negro workers have become social-action goals of numerous human relations organizations in urban areas. Theoretical students may obtain some understanding both of the social actionists’ concern with this phenomenon and of the interrelations of relatively narrow occupational horizon and aggregate response through observing the status scores of the capitalized jobs which are found at the lower end of the job continuum in Table 1. These latter jobs received low mean scores which revealed that Negro respondents considered them of low status and generally distasteful in the light of present-day occupational trends; however, the jobs were evaluated in a slightly less distasteful light, statistically and comparatively, by the Negro study sample whose respondents had only a limited number of jobs to choose from, than by the North-Hatt sample which doubtless had less restricted occupational opportunities.

Many additional inferences may, of course, be drawn from these above data.


In the present study, and by the specific techniques employed, the hypothesis pertaining to the existence of significant differences in the evaluations of jobs and occupations by Columbus, Ohio, Negroes from those held eight years ago by a nation-wide sample of adult white Americans was not substantiated.

Like the white respondents who rated the jobs in 1947, Negro respondents in the Columbus study did not evaluate all jobs as being of equal social status. The mean scores of occupations differed widely, resulting in the formation of a rank system or continuum of jobs.

Only forty-five of the total sixty-five jobs under comparison were presented in this report. Negro respondents, however, rated ten of the sixty-five jobs five or more points higher than did the North-Hatt respondents, and eleven jobs were rated by them five or more points lower. An attempt was made to interpret the differential evaluation in the light both of the prevailing social situation and life experiences of the populations under comparison.

The present investigation suggests a need for comparative studies among other population aggregates of varying status levels for purposes of comparison with present findings.

1 From , 1955, 20:561–566. By permission.

2 Cecil C. North and Paul K. Hatt, "Jobs and Occupations: A Popular Evaluation." Opinion News (September 1, 1947), p. 3.

3 It was assumed that although there may have been changes in the values of white persons with respect to jobs and occupations since 1947, these changes would not be of such magnitude as to render a comparison useless.

4 The ninety jobs listed in the North-Hatt scale were not used in this study because there was no assurance that Negroes were familiar with the North-Hatt jobs. In the selection of jobs for the above study, preliminary interviews were made with more than 1,000 Negro residents, each of whom was asked to enumerate as many jobs, irrespective of status, as he could think of. Listing of a specific jab by five respondents was arbitrarily taken as indicating that the job was familiar enough to Negro respondents for inclusion in the total listing of jobs. Of 129 jobs obtained, 65 had been rated in the North-Hatt study.

5 According to the North-Hatt response pattern, a job evaluated as "Excellent" was assigned an arbitrary weight of 100; "Good," 80; "Average," 60; "Somewhat below average," 40; and "Poor," 20. "I don’t know" answers, evaluated as 0, were not included in the computation of mean scores.

6 "Job permanence" was suggested by only three respondents, while "Absence of physical danger" was suggested by four respondents. Items pertaining to each of the other categories were suggested by not less than fifteen persons.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: American Sociological Review

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: American Sociological Review

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: "The Status of Jobs and Occupations as Evaluated by an Urban Negro Sample1," American Sociological Review in Principles of Sociology: A Reader in Theory and Research, ed. Young, Kimball, and Mack, Raymond W. (New York: American Book Company, 1962), Original Sources, accessed May 27, 2022,

MLA: . "The Status of Jobs and Occupations as Evaluated by an Urban Negro Sample1." American Sociological Review, Vol. 20, in Principles of Sociology: A Reader in Theory and Research, edited by Young, Kimball, and Mack, Raymond W., New York, American Book Company, 1962, Original Sources. 27 May. 2022.

Harvard: , 'The Status of Jobs and Occupations as Evaluated by an Urban Negro Sample1' in American Sociological Review. cited in 1962, Principles of Sociology: A Reader in Theory and Research, ed. , American Book Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 27 May 2022, from