Social class. Whether we like it or not, it’s a thing. In any culture, it’s a thing. And in Britain, it’s a Big Thing. Britain, with its aristocracy and clearly delineated rules about who belongs to the aristocratic class, possesses an indelibly strong class system. The “work hard and pull yourself up by your bootstraps” thinking, so prevalent in the US and adopted by upwardly mobile people, certainly has existed in the UK for moving between classes—but such thinking is utterly useless when one hits the “gene ceiling” of the aristocratic class. Historically, with the British upper social class being primarily hereditary (“unto the manner born”), all others understood which class they were in and accepted it as a way of life. But things have changed. The British may still think about “class” more than many others in the world do, but their traditional labels of “upper,” “middle,” and “working” class are giving way to more varied and nuanced labels. British media has recently been abuzz with talk about “class” since the release of a fascinating BBC survey, conducted by BBC Lab UK.
The BBC Lab UK is a website created by BBC to conduct surveys, which are open to the public, in order to answer scientific questions and create new knowledge. Oftentimes, scientists conducting social-science research must rely on a small group of participants, and results from a small group are generally less accurate than from a large group. The BBC Lab has brilliantly addressed this problem. For the “class” research, the Lab teamed with sociologists from top universities and surveyed more than 161,000 people, the researchers then used the information they gleaned and created a new class model consisting of seven groups: Elite, Established middle class, Technical middle class, New affluent workers, Traditional working class, Emergent service workers, and Precariat.
The survey, obviously for UK residents only, takes about 20 minutes to finish and looks at what one might suspect: income, education, one’s home, whom one associates with, and one’s interests and tastes. The survey was able to ask very personal questions—which we would never do in normal conversation. When we meet someone on the street, we make judgments using different criteria, such as dress, speech, and manners.
The BBC has created a nifty interactive online test that anyone, anywhere can take. The test, a shorter version of the official one, takes only a few minutes to complete but looks at the same criteria as the official test. If you’re interested in discovering which class somebody-out-there thinks you’re in, then here ‘tis…just click away!
(Note: You will be asked sensitive information, such as income. Many, rightfully so, will not want to give out such information. However, the BBC claims that the “calculations are made on your own computer” and that the information is completely safe.)
If after taking the test, you're lamenting your lack of money, perhaps you'd like to watch this video. . .