BACKGROUND In studies from developed Western countries, lower socioeconomic status (SES) has been reported to be associated with kidney diseases. However, this hypothesis has not been examined in populations from newly industrialized Asian countries. We evaluated the association between SES and micro/macroalbuminuria in a population-based sample in Singapore. METHODS We examined 920 participants of Malay ethnicity aged 40-80 years (49.6% female). SES was defined through education, income and housing type of participants. The main outcome of interest was the presence of micro/macroalbuminuria defined as a urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR) >or=17 mg/g for men and >or=25 mg/g for women. RESULTS Lower categories of SES were associated with micro/macroalbuminuria; compared to the higher categories of SES, the odds ratio (95% confidence interval) of micro/macroalbuminuria was 1.76 (1.23-2.52) for primary/lower education, 1.64 (1.16-2.31) for income <1000 Singapore dollars (SGD)/retired status, 1.44 (1.01-2.06) for small/medium housing type and 2.37 (1.56-3.60) for the coexistence of all three low SES factors (primary/ below education, income <1000 SGD/retired status and small/medium housing type) compared to <or=1 low SES factor. This pattern of association was consistently present in subgroup analyses by gender and age. CONCLUSIONS Lower SES is associated with the presence of micro/macroalbuminuria independent of age, gender, smoking, alcohol intake and body mass index among Malay adults in Singapore.