Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Great British class calculator

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People in the UK now fit into seven social classes, a major survey conducted by the BBC suggests.
It says the traditional categories of working, middle and upper class are outdated, fitting 39% of people.
It found a new model of seven social classes ranging from the elite at the top to a "precariat" - the poor, precarious proletariat - at the bottom.
More than 161,000 people took part in the Great British Class Survey, the largest study of class in the UK.
Class has traditionally been defined by occupation, wealth and education. But this research argues that this is too simplistic, suggesting that class has three dimensions - economic, social and cultural.
The BBC Lab UK study measured economic capital - income, savings, house value - and social capital - the number and status of people someone knows.
The study also measured cultural capital, defined as the extent and nature of cultural interests and activities.
The new classes are defined as:
  • Elite - the most privileged group in the UK, distinct from the other six classes through its wealth. This group has the highest levels of all three capitals
  • Established middle class - the second wealthiest, scoring highly on all three capitals. The largest and most gregarious group, scoring second highest for cultural capital
  • Technical middle class - a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital. Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy
  • New affluent workers - a young class group which is socially and culturally active, with middling levels of economic capital
  • Traditional working class - scores low on all forms of capital, but is not completely deprived. Its members have reasonably high house values, explained by this group having the oldest average age at 66
  • Emergent service workers - a new, young, urban group which is relatively poor but has high social and cultural capital
  • Precariat, or precarious proletariat - the poorest, most deprived class, scoring low for social and cultural capital
The researchers said while the elite group had been identified before, this is the first time it had been placed within a wider analysis of the class structure, as it was normally put together with professionals and managers.
At the opposite extreme they said the precariat, the poorest and most deprived grouping, made up 15% of the population.
The sociologists said these two groups at the extremes of the class system had been missed in conventional approaches to class analysis, which have focused on the middle and working classes.
Professor of sociology at Manchester University, Fiona Devine, said the survey really gave a sense of class in 21st Century Britain.

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The survey has really allowed us to drill down and get a much more complete picture of class in modern Britain”
Prof Fiona DevineManchester University
"What it allows us is to understand is a more sophisticated, nuanced picture of what class is like now.
"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," she said.
"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 survey has really allowed us to drill down and get a much more complete picture of class in modern Britain."
Solicitor Vikki Harding is classed as an 'emergent service worker' under the new ranking
The researchers also found the established middle class made up 25% of the population and was the largest of all the class groups, with the traditional working class now only making up 14% of the population.
They say the new affluent workers and emergent service workers appear to be the children of the "traditional working class," which they say has been fragmented by de-industrialisation, mass unemployment, immigration and the restructuring of urban space.

What class are you?

Class figures
  • The full class survey takes about 25 minutes and covers wealth and job type, interests and social circle
  • Compare your score to the nation's
  • Receive a personalised coat-of-arms
BBC Lab UK worked with Prof Mike Savage of the London School of Economics and Prof Devine on the study.
The findings have been published in the Sociology Journal and presented at a conference of the British Sociological Association on Wednesday.
Researchers asked a series of questions about income, house value, savings, cultural and leisure activities and the occupations of friends.
They were able to determine a person's economic, social and cultural capital scores from the answers and analysed the scores to create its class system.
The GBCS was launched online in January 2011, but data showed participants were predominantly drawn from the well-educated social groups.
To overcome this a second identical survey was run with a survey company GFK, with a sample of people representing the population of the UK as a whole, using the information in parallel.
Which of the seven new class categories do you fit in? Or do you have your own way of describing your class? Please send us your comments using the form below.

Professor Mike Savage from the London School of Economics and Professor Fiona Devine from the University of Manchester Mike Savage and Fiona Devine examined class in a brand new way

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Mike Savage from the London School of Economics and Fiona Devine from the University of Manchester describe their findings from The Great British Class Survey. Their results identify a new model of class with seven classes ranging from the Elite at the top to a 'Precariat' at the bottom.
In January 2011, with the help of BBC Lab UK, we asked the BBC audience to complete a unique questionnaire on different dimensions of class.

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We now have a much more complex class system”
We devised a new way of measuring class, which doesn't define class just by the job that you do, but by the different kinds of economic, cultural and social resources or 'capitals' that people possess.
We asked people about their income, the value of their home and savings, which together is known as 'economic capital', their cultural interests and activities, known as 'cultural capital' and the number and status of people they know, which is called 'social capital'.
Amazingly, more than 160,000 of you completed the survey. We now have one of the largest ever studies of class in Great Britain.

The results to date

Our new model includes seven classes.

What class are you?

Class figures
  • The full class survey takes about 25 minutes and covers wealth and job type, interests and social circle
  • Compare your score to the nation's
  • Receive a personalised coat-of-arms
  • Elite: This is the most privileged class in Great Britain who have high levels of all three capitals. Their high amount of economic capital sets them apart from everyone else.
  • Established Middle Class: Members of this class have high levels of all three capitals although not as high as the Elite. They are a gregarious and culturally engaged class.
  • Technical Middle Class: This is a new, small class with high economic capital but seem less culturally engaged. They have relatively few social contacts and so are less socially engaged.
  • New Affluent Workers: This class has medium levels of economic capital and higher levels of cultural and social capital. They are a young and active group.
  • Emergent Service Workers: This new class has low economic capital but has high levels of 'emerging' cultural capital and high social capital. This group are young and often found in urban areas.
  • Traditional Working Class: This class scores low on all forms of the three capitals although they are not the poorest group. The average age of this class is older than the others.
  • Precariat: This is the most deprived class of all with low levels of economic, cultural and social capital. The everyday lives of members of this class are precarious.

Other unique findings

  • Twentieth-century middle-class and working-class stereotypes are out of date. Only 39% of participants fit into the Established Middle Class and Traditional Working Class categories.

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The very rich and very poor are still with us in the 21st Century”
  • The traditional working class is changing. It's smaller than it was in the past. The new generation are more likely to be Affluent Workers or Emergent Service Workers.
  • People consume culture in a complicated way. The Technical Middle Class are less culturally engaged while emergent service workers participate in various activities.
  • The extremes of our class system are very important. The Elite and Precariat often get forgotten with more focus on the middle and working classes. We've discovered detailed findings about them.

What did we measure?

People tend to think they belong to a particular class on the basis of their job and income. These are aspects of economic capital. Sociologists think that your class is indicated by your cultural capital and social capital. Our analysis looked at the relationship between economic, cultural and social capital.
The findings have been published in the journal Sociology and were presented at a conference of the British Sociological Association.

Who took part?

Crowd in UK celebrating the Olympics. File pic: 2012
A total of 161,458 people from around the UK completed the survey. The majority (86%) lived in England while 8% lived in Scotland, 3% in Wales and 1% in Northern Ireland.
Of that total, 91,458 men (56%) and 69,902 women (43%) completed the survey. They had an average age of 35 and 145,521 participants (90%) described themselves as 'white'.
This very large sample allowed us to analyse the connections between the different capitals using a technique called 'latent class analysis'.
This produced a lot of very detailed information which took a long time to examine. There's still plenty of exciting work still to be done!
The data from the Great British Class Survey was analysed by a team including Niall Cunningham, Yaojun Li and Andrew Miles from the University of Manchester, Mark Taylor from the University of York, Sam Friedman from City University, Johs Hjellbrekke from the University of Bergen, Norway and Brigette Le Roux of Universite Paris Descartes, France.

More on This Story

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The Great British Class Survey is the biggest scientific investigation into social class in the UK

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Sociologists are interested in the idea that class is about your cultural tastes and activities as well as the type and number of people you know.
These factors are important when put alongside people's economic position.
Professors Mike Savage and Fiona Devine explain how a BBC Lab UK experiment allowed them to better understand class in the 21st Century.

Measuring Class

Pierre BourdieuPierre Bourdieu investigated what propelled people into the upper strata
Understanding classes as amounts of different types of 'capitals' helps us to see class across a number of dimensions.
The French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu first developed this approach in 1984, suggesting there are different types of capitals which give people an advantage in life. Economic, cultural and social capital may overlap but they are different. Using this approach, we distinguished between people with different amounts of each of these three capitals.
It's been difficult to test this approach in Britain because comprehensive questions on cultural and social capital are rarely asked in national surveys. Sociologists need large amounts of data to unravel the complicated way the different capitals interact with each other, in many different people.
So we were excited to test this approach for the first time by designing a survey with BBC Lab UK.

The Great British Class Survey

We wanted to find detailed ways of measuring how much economic, cultural and social capital people possess.

What class are you?

Class figures
  • The original class survey takes about 25 minutes and covers wealth and job type, interests and social circle
  • Compare your score to the nation's
  • Receive a personalised coat-of-arms
The questions we asked about people's leisure interests, musical tastes, use of the media and food preferences helped us build a picture of Britain's cultural consumption.
To investigate social capital, we used a 'position generator' developed by the American sociologist Nan Lin in 2001 to measure the range of people's social ties. We asked our participants whether they knew anyone in 37 different occupations.
The questions on economic capital asked about household income, whether you owned your own property, how much it was worth, and your savings. This meant we had unusually detailed measures of the different types of economic capital.
We also collected extensive information about people's household composition, education, social mobility and political attitudes. This data allowed us to understand our measures of economic, cultural and social capital in the context of other important aspects of people's lives.

Measuring Your Capitals

Cultural Capital
People enjoying a gigGoing to gigs is an emerging form of cultural activity
It was complicated working out how to measure cultural capital because we needed to understand how some cultural activities tend to cluster together and how some are associated with being advantaged in the first place.
To find out which cultural activities tended to go together, we did some statistics called multiple correspondence analysis on the 27 cultural activities listed in the survey. This analysis was based on the interests participants said they liked or disliked and the activities they told us they did or didn't do.
From this analysis we could determine the people interested in 'highbrow' culture, like going to the theatre or listening to classical music; and those attracted to more 'popular' or 'emerging' forms of culture, like using social media or going to gigs. We found that there were three distinct groups; those who engaged with 'highbrow' culture, those interested in 'emerging' culture and those who were pretty uninterested in culture of any kind.

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Classes are bundles of economic, cultural and social capital that convey advantage for individuals and families from one generation to the next”
We decided to use engagement in 'highbrow' and 'emerging' culture as measures of cultural capital. We measured how much 'highbrow' culture people consumed by scoring how engaged they were with classical music, attending stately homes and so on. We measured how much 'emerging' cultural capital people owned by scoring their engagement with video games, a preference for hip-hop and so forth.
Social Capital
The 37 different occupations listed in the online survey for people to identify as friends were taken from the very well established Cambridge Social Interaction and Stratification (CAMSIS) scale. For each participant, we were able to assess how many of the 37 occupations they reported, the average importance of their contacts and their range of people they know.
We decided to focus on two ways of measuring social capital. We measured the average status or importance of people's social contacts and the number of occupations people said they knew.
Economic Capital
We asked people about their household income, household savings and the value of their house. We combined this information to make a 'score' which represented each participant's economic capital.
It's important to emphasise that these measures are for the household and it is possible for some people who aren't in well-paid jobs themselves to achieve high scores because of the income of other members of the household. They might be members of the same family although they might not be related.
The findings have been published in the journal Sociology and were presented at a conference of the British Sociological Association.
Find out more about the results of the Great British Class Survey here.

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