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Reliability of the MacArthur scale of subjective social status - Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil)

Luana Giatti123*, Lidyane do Valle Camelo12, Jôsi Fernandes de Castro Rodrigues12 and Sandhi Maria Barreto12

Author Affiliations

1 Post-graduate Program in Public Health, School of Medicine, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil

2 Research Group on Chronic and Occupational Diseases – GERMINAL, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil

3 School of Nutrition, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, Morro do Cruzeiro s/n, Ouro Preto, MG, 35400-000, Brazil

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:1096  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1096

Published: 20 December 2012



The MacArthur Scale of Subjective Social Status intend to measure the subjective social status using a numbered stepladder image. This study investigated the reliability of the MacArthur scale in a subsample of the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil).


Three scales were employed using different references: 1) the overall socioeconomic position; 2) the socioeconomic situation of the participant’s closer community; 3) the workplace as a whole. A total of 245 of the ELSA participants from six states were involved. They were interviewed twice by the same person within an interval of seven to fourteen days. The reliability of the scale was assessed with weighted Kappa statistics and intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC), with their respective 95% confidence interval (CI).


Kappa values were 0.62(0.58 to 0.64) for the society ladder; 0.58(0.56 to 0.61) for the community-related ladder; and 0.67(0.66 to 0.72) for the work-related ladder. The ICC ranged from 0.75 for the work ladder to 0.64 for the community ladder. These values differed slightly according to the participants’ age, sex and education category.


The three ladders showed good stability in the test-retest, except the community ladder that showed moderate stability. Because the social structure in Brazil is rapidly changing, future qualitative and longitudinal studies are needed to confirm and understand the construct underlying the MacArthur Scale in the country.

Subjective social status; Reproducibility; Cohort study; ELSA-Brasil