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Clinging On: The Decline of the Middle Classes

Is the middle class in decline? David Boyle explores the split between a rich elite and those said to be clinging on to a deteriorating lifestyle with falling expectations.

Is the middle-class in terminal decline? Writer David Boyle, author of Broke: Who Killed the Middle Classes?, explores the split between a small rich elite and those who are argued to be clinging on to a deteriorating lifestyle and falling expectations.

The salaries of financial service workers based in London are soaring away from those in more traditional professions. At the same time, house prices are rising and so-called 'cling-ons' are being forced out to the peripheries of London and beyond. Many of those who might have aspired to private education for their children find the fees are beyond them.

But does it matter? According to the eminent American political scientist Francis Fukuyama, it definitely does - democracy is dependent on a healthy middle class and without it there is a real threat of instability, with demonstrators taking to the streets even in Britain and America.

David Boyle also talks to the distinguished Oxford sociologist John Goldthorpe, who worries that there is no room at the top for today's aspiring young. Deputy Editor Gavanndra Hodge explains why even Tatler decided to print a guide to state schools. And the programme visits Liverpool College, the great Victorian public school, which decided to cross the great divide and become an academy within the state system.

Middle class professionals describe problems buying a house on two doctors' salaries, finding a job as a solicitor and raising the money to pay school fees, and even how an architect's life can be a tough one.

Are the professions themselves under threat from technology undermining traditional ways of working? One GP worries that the discretion he once enjoyed is being destroyed by the computer.

Producer: Glynn Jones
A Jolt production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

38 minutes

Last on

Sun 8 Feb 2015 17:00