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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Mike Savage
  • Niall Cunningham
  • Mark Taylor
  • Johs Hjellbrekke
  • Brigitte Le Roux
  • Sam Friedman

Abstract

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. © The Author(s) 2013.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-250
Number of pages31
JournalSociology
Volume47
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013

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