The Class Ceiling Why it Pays to be Privileged
The hidden barriers, or ‘glass ceilings’, preventing women and minority ethnic groups from getting to the top are well documented. Yet questions of social class - and specifically class origin – have been curiously absent from these debates.
In this talk we begin by drawing on new data from Britain’s largest employment survey, The Labour Force Survey, to demonstrate that a powerful and previously unrecognised “class pay gap” exists in Britain’s higher professional and managerial occupations. We then switch focus to ask why this pay gap exists. Specifically, we draw on 175 interviews across four occupational case studies – television, accountancy, architecture, and acting.
This demonstrates that the class ceiling can only be very partially attributed to conventional measures of ‘merit’. Instead, more powerful drivers are rooted in the misrecognition of classed self-presentation as ‘talent’, work cultures historically shaped by the privileged, the affordances of the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’, and sponsored mobility premised on class-cultural homophily.
Hosted by the Equality, Justice and Ethics research theme
Dr Sam Friedman
Dr Sam Friedman is a sociologist of class and inequality at the London School of Economics. His research focuses on the cultural dimensions of contemporary class division.