How do we define class?

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
March 05, 2010, 1:58 AM GMT+0

When asking people about class, the problem always arises; how to define it? Traditionally, the perception has been that the more money you have, the higher your class. But in reality, it has never been that simple. Teaching is a good example of a normally well-respected profession that is famously poorly paid, but few would argue that teachers belong in the working class category solely due to their relatively low incomes.

Fittingly, a survey of British adults for the Daily Telegraph found that income is no longer the primary factor people use to judge class, with only 27% considering this option. Instead, education and, accordingly, job occupation is the method through which a sizeable 48% define class, and perhaps because of this, one quarter of those polled said that they would judge someone’s class by the clothes their wear.

But another major way in which people gauge class is through someone’s accent. 45% claimed that this was the primary characteristic they would use when meeting new people. The survey did not specify which accents would denote which social class. And while it’s fair to say that listeners would be very likely to pigeonhole a speaker with a particularly ‘plummy’ version of a received pronunciation accent as upper to upper middle class, the accents that would lead to categorisation in a supposedly ‘lower’ strata remains to be seen.

Related story - Does class matter more in Britain than elsewhere?

For full survey and results, please click here