What is your 21st Century social class?

Debutantes in London, 1958 Image copyright PA

Within a week of its publication in 2013, roughly one in five of the British adult population - about seven million people - had clicked on the BBC's Great British Class Calculator. Now, using fresh analysis of the original data, here is some more food for thought.

Are you a member of the "elite"? How about the "technical middle class"? Or perhaps you consider yourself to be one of the "precariat"?

Prof Mike Savage from the London School of Economics helped collate the survey information, which led to the creation of the BBC's class calculator.

He says the traditional British social divisions of upper, middle and working class now seem out of date. The wealthy elite have pulled ahead - and the old boundaries between middle and working class are now more blurred.

In his new book, Social Class in the 21st Century, Savage delves deeper into the Great British Class Survey findings from 161,000 people. Here, take a look at five information-rich nuggets from the book:


Do you feel privileged?

About 6% of the UK population can be classed in the elite section of society.

The elite are people with high levels of all three of the so-called "capitals" assessed in the Great British Class Survey - especially "economic capital", with high levels of household income, savings, and highly valued owner occupied homes.

The other two capitals were "cultural" - which measured cultural interests and activities. And "social" - which counted the number, and status, of people they knew.

At the other end, more than two and a half times as many people are classed as being in the precariat - with "precarious" everyday lives. People in this group are the most deprived in society with low levels of economic, cultural and social capital.

Interestingly, high proportions of people in the elite took part in the GBCS relative to their size in the overall population. The opposite was true of the precariat, who, says Savage, "found it intimidating to do this web survey".

% of population % of GBCS sample Average age % of ethnic minority
Elite 6 22 57 4
Established middle class 25 43 46 13
Technical middle class 6 10 52 9
New affluent workers 15 6 44 11
Traditional working class 14 2 66 9
Emergent service workers 19 17 32 21
Precariat 15 <1 50 13

Data: Great British Class Survey 2011/GfK survey 2011/Mike Savage


The next map - showing the local authority areas across Great Britain, and counties in Northern Ireland - reveal extremes in social class by location.

The dark purple areas are where there are notable clusters of people from the elite, living close to other clusters of people also from the elite.

Affluent towns in Surrey, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire - for example - are only a few miles away from similarly affluent towns.

The palest, pink-coloured shading shows the reverse - areas with low clusters of elites which are close to other similar places.

Much of south Wales, parts of the north Midlands, and large swathes of northern England - for example.

The two colours in the middle of the spectrum represent so-called High-Low and Low-High areas.

High-Low districts feature wealthy enclaves, where there are high numbers of people from the elite class surrounded by areas which are less affluent.

These areas include the Vale of Glamorgan in south Wales, parts of Cheshire and Northumberland, or Selby district in North Yorkshire.

The next map - showing southern England in detail - has several low-high districts.

Towns like Swindon, Slough and Crawley have relatively low proportions of elites, but with wealthy clusters not far away.

Data: Great British Class Survey 2011/Mike Savage


Is it worth going to university to climb the social class ladder?

This next graph lists the proportion of graduates and non-graduates in each the seven classes defined in the 2013 calculator.

People in the elite are much more likely to have attended university than not - but the graph also shows that it is possible to move into that group without a degree.

In the "established middle class" - where members have high levels of all three capitals (economic, cultural and social) although not as high as the elite - twice as many people have a degree as do not.

But the levels are less pronounced among new affluent workers and emergent service workers.

New affluent workers - a young and active group - have medium levels of economic capital and higher levels of cultural and social capital. Emergent service workers are also often younger, live in urban areas, and have low economic capital but higher levels of social and "emerging" cultural capital.

Savage concludes that getting a good degree can affect which class people are likely to end up in - but not going to university does not mean they have no prospect of moving up.

Data: Great British Class Survey 2011/GfK survey 2011/Mike Savage


People with elite jobs who have a parent who was also in an elite occupation when their child was growing up can - it appears - expect to achieve a higher salary than people who do not.

The table below sets out elite salaries according to family background - and shows that for these occupations, those who come from senior manager backgrounds earn more than those whose parents were manual workers.

Parent(s) senior manager/traditional professions Parent(s) middle managers/modern professions Parent(s) manual worker/never worked Average for all in these occupations
Scientists 50,790 45,740 44,179 47,928
Engineers 55,066 49,678 47,554 51,237
IT professionals 61,899 53,770 50,462 55,296
Doctors 80,226 78,925 74,915 78,221
Lawyers, barristers, judges 86,363 75,273 65,583 79,436
Accountants 63,848 57,237 52,990 59,118
CEOs, directors, presidents 101,052 87,751 83,467 93,881
Financial intermediaries 84,797 68,843 60,767 74,130
Journalists 53,876 48,958 46,895 50,168

"There are various possibilities as to why those from senior management family backgrounds have higher pay," says Savage.

"It could be either because of the support they were given to get better qualifications, or because strings were pulled, or because they have more confidence."

Data: Great British Class Survey 2011/Mike Savage


Greater London, by far, produces the highest value of goods and services - but given the city's population size, and its place in the world's finance industry, that is perhaps not so surprising.

At close to 350,000 billion euros per annum, the measure of London's Gross Value Added (GVA) is about seven times greater than the next on the list, Greater Manchester.

West Midlands and West Yorkshire follow in third and fourth places. Then Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

"Yes, some cities are bigger which explains why they have higher GVA," Savage explains.

"But the point to note is the dominance of London's economy within the UK which reflects its size, but also the centrality of the high level economic activity there."

Data: Eurostat/Mike Savage/Niall Cunningham/University of Durham


Social class in 21st Century Britain is a complex topic - and you may still not be sure where you fit in.

Try our Great British Class Calculator.

Information in this article comes from Social Class in the 21st Century, by Mike Savage.

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