Program at a glance 2021

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New tools for measuring and coding socio-demographic variables using database lookups

Session Organiser Dr Verena Ortmanns (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)
TimeFriday 2 July, 16:45 - 18:00

Individuals’ position in a society’s social structure is characterized by several concepts, such as age, education, and employment status. These variables are widely used in research; however, most researchers regard them as background variables only.
Most of these variables cannot be measured with scales but often require more or less detailed and elaborate categorical classification systems. Some variables also come along with a larger number of answer categories challenging their measurement. The promising developments presented in this session reduce office coding, less harmonization logistics and thus cost savings by linking survey questionnaires to large databases to allow the coding of survey variables during the interview. Database lookups can either replace open questions that need to be post-coded or long-list questions.
This session contains presentations of past developments, ongoing research and promising designs to make use of databases lookups for capturing socio-demographics in surveys.

Keywords: new tools, socio-demographic variables, cross-national surveys, long-list questions, databases

Religious denominations database

Mr Giovanni N. Borghesan (European Values Study/Tilburg University/University of Trento ) - Presenting Author
Professor Ruud Luijkx (European Values Study/Tilburg University/University of Trento )
Ms Daniela Negoita (European Values Study/Tilburg University/University of Trento )

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In the framework of SSHOC (Social Sciences and Humanities Open Cloud) WP3,Selected SSH Ontologies and vocabularies, the project aims at mapping religious denominations across all countries in the world. By means of international long-standing social surveys and available national statistics, we track down the known religious denominations in each country. In cooperation with the OnBound project, these denominations are classified in a taxonomic scheme that includes both major religious groups and smaller branches. As a last step, religious denominations are then translated in every language spoken in the country where such religion is practiced. The resulting database will be offered for scientific use through an API in the form of a predefined set of response categories. As of today, such a tool has never been prepared, resulting in a plethora of different codings for religious denominations across different surveys. Hence, being aware of the ever-changing universe of religious denominations and of the multitude of research produced in this regard, with this project, we wish to offer a manifold contribution:
- A comprehensive ready to use a classification scheme that can be used by survey agencies to produce detailed and comparable data.
- A flexible tool for researchers valuable for all future research venues aiming both at comparing countries or deeply scrutinize a specific case.

Measuring Education in Cross-National Surveys Using Coding Tools

Dr Verena Ortmanns (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences) - Presenting Author
Dr Silke Schneider (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)

Education is a central concept in social science research, and thus a key socio-demographic characteristic that is measured in almost every survey. Many researchers take the education variable for granted and refer to it as self-explanatory. However, the different meanings of the concept of education and its related measurement, especially when it comes to cross-national or migration surveys, are often not as explicit and self-evident as many researchers might think.
In the last years, tools for measuring and harmonizing education in computer-assisted surveys have been developed. Currently, these tools are updated and developed further within the SSHO project (Social Sciences & Humanities Open Cloud).
In this presentation, we will firstly showcase the CAMCES tool, which measures respondents’ highest educational qualification. This tool exists of a questionnaire module, an underlying international database that covers educational qualifications and their mapping towards the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), and two interfaces by which the database can be accessed. Currently, the database covers information for 100 countries. Secondly, we will demonstrate a tool for measuring fields of education and training, which was developed within SERISS (Synergies for Europe’s Research Infrastructures in the Social Sciences) . The tools is also based on a database that covers translations for the fields of education and training as defined in the related ISCED-F classification. This database contains the translations for 35 languages. Both tools are available at
This presentation will also indicate recent as well as future plans and development of these tools within the SSHOC projec.

Measuring Occupations in Multi-Country Surveys

Professor Kea Tijdens (WageIndicator Foundation) - Presenting Author

Occupation is a key variable in socio-economic research, used in a wide variety of studies. In surveys, it is mostly asked using an open text format with office coding. Alternatively, web surveys and computer-based face-to-face surveys allow the use of an occupation database with coded occupational titles. Compared to office coding, a database is advantageous because all occupational titles are measured at the same level of detail, unidentifiable titles are absent, and so are coding costs and timelags. Several single-country surveys have applied machine learning algorithms for coding, requiring a huge set of manually coded verbatim answers. For multi-country surveys, however, no such sets exist. From 2004 onwards for use in the multi-country WageIndicator websurvey on work and wages, the author has gradually developed a multi-country occupational database, coded ISCO08 at 4 digits by ILO, the custodian of ISCO. Thanks to the SERISS project (Synergies for Europe’s Research Infrastructures in the Social Sciences) the database could be extended to over 4,000 occupational titles, translated into 47 languages. Thanks to the SSHOC project (Social Sciences and Humanities Open Cloud), a technical infrastructure could be built, facilitating survey holders to use the database in their survey, see . The paper provides examples of how respondents use the database to self-select their occupation, how the database was used for the occupation question in several surveys and it shows which related variables come along when measuring the occupation. It shows why the database is based on translations of the detailed job titles provided in the ILO ISCO-08 classification (2012) and why the database does not consist of a merger of national occupational classifications. Finally, the paper sets out a plan to upgrade the database.

The future of SurveyCodings

Professor Ruud Luijkx (Tilburg University) - Presenting Author
Professor Kea Tijdens (WageIndicator Foundation)
Mr Maurice Martens (CentERdata)
Dr Verena Ortmanns (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)
Mr Giovanni N. Borghesan (Tilburg University)
Dr Silke Schneider (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)
Mr Eric Balster (CentERdata)

So far, this session has presented single classification systems on religious denominations, occupation, and education. Also, attention to the tools that are developed has been showcased.
The current activities are placed within the SSHOC-project (Social Sciences and Humanities Open Cloud) but find their origins within the CAMCES- and SERISS-projects. Within SERISS (Synergies for Europe’s Research Infrastructure in the Social Sciences), a work package was devoted to a “coding module for socio-economic survey questions”. SERISS facilitated the extension of the existing ISCO coded occupation database to more than 4000 occupational titles and more than 35 languages, the existing database of NACE coded industries to more than 300 categories and more than 35 languages, and to develop an occupation to industry prediction. Concerning education, the existing CAMCES tool was extended and now covers 100 countries and a tool for measuring fields of education and training was set up. All these tools are based on extensive international databases. The tools can be used in web surveys in software developed by CentERdata and are available on
The goal within the SSHOC-project is to develop the sets of survey codings further in cooperation with (inter)national survey programs. Points to consider in the future are to extend the coding areas, e.g. marital status and the intersection of codings for education and occupation. The great benefit for surveys is that they don’t need to use open-ended questions anymore and that there will be standardization and harmonization not only between countries but also between survey programs. Databases will be made available in different formats and in the form of tools being developed by CentERdata. We intend to get SurveyCodings a permanent place with the European Open Science Cloud for the future. In this presentation, we will report on the state of that endeavor.