Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Class System for Our Age; New Research Claims It Is Simplistic to Call Yourself Upper, Middle or Working Class. RACHEL WEARMOUTH Asks If the New Great British Class Calculator, Which Weighs Up Your Social, Cultural and Economic Capital, Really Adds Up

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Class System for Our Age; New Research Claims It Is Simplistic to Call Yourself Upper, Middle or Working Class. RACHEL WEARMOUTH Asks If the New Great British Class Calculator, Which Weighs Up Your Social, Cultural and Economic Capital, Really Adds Up

Article excerpt

Byline: RACHEL WEARMOUTH

IN the not-so-distant past, your occupation dictated your social class. If you were, say, a pitmen, a welder or a seamstress, it was a safe bet you were working-class.

You went to the pub and probably liked TV shows and football. Similarly, if you were a lawyer, teacher or maybe an accountant, you could probably consider yourself middle-class. It is more likely you went to the theatre and a golf club.

And if you were born into enough money not to need a job, then your spot was in the upper-class echelons of society and the chances were that you probably owned a football club or theatre.

This was something everyone thought they knew. Indeed it was important people knew their place, a fact parodied to great effect by John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in their famous Class Sketch, pictured above.

First broadcast on David Frost's satirical comedy programme The Frost Report in 1966, it showed the trio mocking supposed ideas of status. But there were always exceptions to the rule, as Wallis Simpson proved when the commoner married a king.

However, in recent years, sociologists have been spotting a growing number of these exceptions. Since 1993, the percentage of degree holders has more than doubled, traditional industries have been steadily on the decline, and first-time buyers are increasingly rare.

The combined powers of the internet and TV have given us more access to education, literature, sport and culture than we ever thought imaginable. It is not surprising that terms such as lower working-class and upper middle-class have begun to creep into our lexicon.

Yesterday, the findings of the Great British Class Survey, in which more than 160,000 people took part, were announced.

The largest research undertaking of its kind to be conducted in the UK, it claims the three class divisions are too simplistic and instead suggests seven different splits.

Continued Instead of being based on occupation, wealth and education, the new classes range from the privileged elite to the deprived precariat. The calculator scores you on income, savings, house value and social capital as well as the number and status of people you know.

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. Prof 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 between the two extremes are the established middle-class, the second wealthiest group, followed by the technical middle-class, a small group which scores low for social and cultural capital but is relatively wealthy. Next down the line are the new affluent workers, a young class group which is socially and culturally engaged, with medium levels of economic capital, and the traditional workingclass, who score low on capital but are not completely deprived. Just above the poorest in society are the emergent service workers, a new, young, urban group relatively poor but with high social and cultural capital.

Professor Divine said: "It's what's in the middle which is really interesting and exciting, there's a much more fuzzy area between the traditional workingclass 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." But do those divided into the categories feel their new titles make sense? Andrew Reynolds is a 36-year-old dad and director of IT who lives in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, with his wife Claire, a teacher. He was slotted into the established middle-class category; the largest of the seven at 25% of the population, the group is said to have an average household income of PS47,000 and some highbrow tastes. …

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