The class(es) of 2013

Apparently, nobody likes to be “pegged.” But I have to admit, when I read that large-scale BBC research has identified seven social classes in the UK (trumping the old working/middle/upper class tenet) I had this niggling itch to find out which one I’d be in – just so I could angrily disagree with the verdict afterwards.

But look, lucky me, they also built an online calculator. (If you also use it, or the full survey, please let me know what you think of the result. There’s a poll at the bottom of this page)

No, I’m not going to tell you my result. But I strongly recommend you give it a go yourself. The Great British Class Survey, with a sample size of 161,000, is the largest study of its kind in the UK, according to the BBC. The full survey, which you can still take part in, is here. It asks the pertinent ‘how much are you worth’ questions, but also what sorts of things you like to do with your leisure time (whether you actually go to the theatre or just tell your posh friends that you do) and who you associate with (no, not your Facebook friends).

You’ll be placed in one of seven classes based on three “capitals” – ie your economic capital (wealth), cultural capital (your hobbies and interests) and social capital (your friends and those you socialise with). The seven classes are defied by the study 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

What does it all mean, anyway?

Unfortunately, knowing what class you belong to won’t greatly enrich your life. But it may give you an insight into where you can expect to end up – or where your kids might. According to the OECD (bunch of rich countries including the UK), in Britain we have some of the lowest intergenerational social mobility in the world – that’s how good your chances are of moving up or down the class scale compared to your parents’.

Private school is still a great advantage if you want to be a doctor, executive or judge, for example. Only 49 per cent of the poorest in Britain go to university, whereas 77 per cent of the richest do. The top 10 private schools accounted for 12 per cent of the country’s leaders, according to a Sutton Trust report.

There are a million and one statistics like this, many of which you can see in pretty graph form here. Ironically, according to an article in the Telegraph yesterday research in the US finds that the fastest growing sectors for new jobs do not require degrees, whereas more people than ever before are going to university.

Of course, the biggest challenge to social mobility is the “virtuous meritocracy” – rich, successful and intelligent people marry other rich successful and intelligent people. Then they pay for their sprogs to be successful too (ie, well educated, lots of extra-curriculars etc etc). A similar pattern is true at the bottom of the pile, sadly, except for the paying for success part.

Hence the most popular statistic: the top 1 per cent of the British population receives 14 per cent of the national income.

Bottom line: class cannot tell you how your life is going to pan out. It can tell you where it might.

So…the moment of truth……

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