Background 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). Method 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). Results 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. Conclusion 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.