To examine the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and the occurrence of chronic pain, defined as pain that persists or recurs for >3 months.We performed a structured search in Medline, Embase, WHO Global Index Medicus and Conference Proceedings Citation Index-Science databases to identify cohort and case-control studies on chronic pain and SES and its subgroups (SES combined index, educational level, income and occupational status). We extracted study characteristics, outcome measures and measures of association and their 95% CIs. Literature search, data extraction and risk of bias assessment were conducted by two independent researchers. We performed main and subgroup meta-analyses using random-effects model, and formally assessed heterogeneity and publication bias.A total of 45 studies, covering a population of ∼175 000 individuals, were meta-analysed, yielding a pooled Odds Ratio (OR) of 1.32 (95% CI: 1.21, 1.44) and 1.16 (95% CI: 1.09, 1.23) for low and medium SES levels, respectively, compared with high level. We obtained similar results in all the subgroup analyses. Heterogeneity was generally moderate to high across strata, and some evidence of publication bias for low socioeconomic status was found.Our results support a moderate increase in the risk of chronic pain for low and medium SES when compared with high SES, a feature that remained constant in all measures of exposure or outcome used. Further prospective research on populations from developing countries are needed to confirm our findings as the studies available for this meta-analysis were carried out exclusively in developed countries.