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European Classification Project

An Assessment of National Variations in the Perception of Social Space

Alexandra Filhon, Jérôme Deauvieau, Laure Verdalle (de), Agnès Pelage, Tristan Poullaouec, Cécile Brousse, Martine Mespoulet and Karolina Sztandar-Sztanderska

This article examines the categorization of social space in five European countries, Germany, Belgium, Spain, France and Poland. It draws on analysis of reactions to the European Socio-economic Classification (ESeC) prototype designed by social science researchers for Eurostat. Looking beyond the logic underpinning the prototype, our work investigates how “ordinary” people understand the structuring of social space in different national contexts. By studying how respondents react to ESeC categories, we were able to address how they develop their own categories that guide them in social space. Through an experimental survey based on a list of occupations, classified according to the ESeC categories, we tested the self-consistency of the prototype by submitting it to ordinary individuals. Our results demonstrate that the respondents found it difficult to understand the main organizational principles of ESeC. We conclude by questioning the ability of the European classification system in question to take into account the diverse national socio-economic realities that still characterize the European Union.