The British public no longer fit into just three social classes, with society now split into seven based on economic, social and cultural measures, a major new study has discovered. Unlike the three traditional class divisions the new classes range from the privileged ‘elite’ to the deprived ‘precariat’
More than 160,000 people took part in the Great British Class Survey, the largest of its kind in the UK, with the results prompting researchers to dismiss the established upper class, middle class and working class system as “too simplistic”
Unlike the three traditional class divisions, defined by occupation, wealth and education, the new classes range from the privileged ‘elite’ to the deprived ‘precariat’, based on income, savings, house value and social capital – the number and status of people that someone knows.The research was carried out by Mike Savage from the London School of Economics and Fiona Devine from the University of Manchester with the help of BBC Lab UK.
The study invited people to use its ‘class calculator’ on the BBC’s website, where participants answered questions on topics such as their household income, what professions their friends do, and how they liked to spend their free time.
Professor Devine said: “It shows us there is still a top and a bottom – at the top we still have an elite of very wealthy people and at the bottom the poor, with very little social and cultural engagement.”
In the middle of the two extremes are the established middle class, the second wealthiest group, followed by the technical middle class, a small, prosperous new class group which scores low for social and cultural capital.Next down the line are the new affluent workers, a young class group which is socially and culturally active, with middling levels of economic capital, and the traditional working class, who score low on capital but are not “completely deprived”.
Ahead of the poorest in society are the emergent service workers, a new, young, urban group which is relatively poor but has high social and cultural capital.Professor Divine added: “It’s what’s in the middle which is really interesting and exciting, there’s a much more fuzzy area between the traditional working class and traditional middle class.
“There’s the emergent workers and the new affluent workers who are different groups of people who won’t necessarily see themselves as working or middle class.” The findings will be published in the Sociology Journal and presented at a conference of the British Sociological Association today
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