Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A New Model of Social Class? Findings from the BBC’s Great British Class Survey Experiment

an article by Mike Savage (London School of Economics, UK), Fiona Devine, Niall Cunningham, Yaojun Li and Andrew Miles (University of Manchester, UK), Mark Taylor (University of York, UK), Johs Hjellbrekke (Universitetet i Bergen, Norway), Brigitte Le Roux (Université Paris Descartes, France) and Sam Friedman (City University London, UK) published in Sociology Volume 47 Number 2 (April 2013)


The social scientific analysis of social class is attracting renewed interest given the accentuation of economic and social inequalities throughout the world.

The most widely validated measure of social class, the Nuffield class schema, developed in the 1970s, was codified in the UK’s National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC) and places people in one of seven main classes according to their occupation and employment status.

This principally distinguishes between people working in routine or semi-routine occupations employed on a ‘labour contract’ on the one hand, and those working in professional or managerial occupations employed on a ‘service contract’ on the other.

However, this occupationally based class schema does not effectively capture the role of social and cultural processes in generating class divisions.

We analyse the largest survey of social class ever conducted in the UK, the BBC’s 2011 Great British Class Survey, with 161,400 web respondents, as well as a nationally representative sample survey, which includes unusually detailed questions asked on social, cultural and economic capital. Using latent class analysis on these variables, we derive seven classes.

We demonstrate the existence of an ‘elite’, whose wealth separates them from an established middle class, as well as a class of technical experts and a class of ‘new affluent’ workers.

We also show that at the lower levels of the class structure, alongside an ageing traditional working class, there is a ‘precariat’ characterised by very low levels of capital, and a group of emergent service workers. We think that this new seven class model recognises both social polarisation in British society and class fragmentation in its middle layers, and will attract enormous interest from a wide social scientific community in offering an up-to-date multi-dimensional model of social class.

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