Changing class systems

Middle class

What’s the challenge?

The global class system is changing. By 2030, two billion people will join the middle class from emerging economies, leaving Europe and North America with less than a third of the total middle class population. What impact is this having on people and planet?

The Great British Class Survey

The BBC’s Great British Class Survey 2013 used complex statistics to look at the economic, cultural and social capital of 160,000 people and identified 7 classes.

Elite: This is the most privileged class in Great Britain who have high levels of all three capitals. Their high amount of economic capital sets them apart from everyone else. Top locations: Soth Buckinghamshire, Elmbridge Surrey, City of London

Established Middle Class: Members of this class have high levels of all three capitals although not as high as the Elite. They are a gregarious and culturally engaged class. Top locations: Falkirk, Kettering, North Lanarkshire

Technical Middle Class:
This is a new, small class with high economic capital but seem less culturally engaged. They have relatively few social contacts and so are less socially engaged. Top locations: Rushmoor Surrey, REdbridge East London, Oadby and Wigston Leicestershire

New Affluent Workers:
This class has medium levels of economic capital and higher levels of cultural and social capital. They are a young and active group. Top locations: Corby, Blaenau, Gwent, Mansfield

Emergent Service Workers:
This new class has low economic capital but has high levels of ’emerging’ cultural capital and high social capital. This group are young and often found in urban areas. Top locations: Manchester, Liverpool, Brighton and Hove

Traditional Working Class:
This class scores low on all forms of the three capitals although they are not the poorest group. The average age of this class is older than the others.
Precariat: This is the most deprived class of all with low levels of economic, cultural and social capital. The everyday lives of members of this class are precarious. Top locations: Knowsley, Merseyside, Blackpool, Christchurch, Dorest

Precariat (The precarious proletariat) – this is the poorest, most deprived class and scores low for social and cultural capital. Top locations: Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Neath Port Talbot

Source: LSE

Panel discussion

21st Century Challenges held a panel discussion on 13 March 2014 to discuss the issue.

Claire Provost (Chair), Guardian Claire Provost works on the Guardian’s Global development website.


Mike Savage, Professor of Sociology, LSE and lead researcher of the BBC’s Great British Class Survey 2013
Mike Savage is Professor of Sociology at LSE and visiting Professor at the University of York.
He is the author of ‘The Dynamics of Working Class Politics (1987)’, ‘Identities and Social Change: the politics of method’, ‘Urban Sociology, Capitalism and Modernity’, ‘Globalisation and Belonging’ and co-author of ‘Property, Bureaucracy and Culture: middle class formation in contemporary Britain’.

Along with Fiona Devine he led the 2013 BBC’s Great British Class Survey, the largest survey of class ever conducted in the UK, with 161,000 responses to the web survey. His research focuses on the UK but he has published widely with colleagues around the world. Previously he was a senior Fulbright Scholar and visiting Professor at Sciences-Po in France, and Bergen in Norway. He is a former Editor of The Sociological Review (2001-2007), was elected an Academician of the Social Sciences in 2003 and is a Fellow of the British Academy in 2007.



Stewart Lansley, Economist and author of ‘The Cost of Inequality: Why Economic Equality is Essential for Recovery’
Stewart Lansley is an economist, author and financial journalist. He is a visiting fellow at the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research and has written on inequality, wealth and poverty for academic and specialist journals as well as the Guardian, Observer and Independent.

He is the author of a number of books including The Cost of Inequality ( 2011 ); Top Man ( a biography of Philip Green, 2007 ); Rich Britain ( 2006 ) and Poor Britain ( with Joanna Mack, 1985 ). His previous academic posts include the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the Henley Centre and the Universities of Brunel and Reading.

He is a former executive producer in the current affairs department of the BBC where he was Editor of the 5 Live Report and produced TV series including Breadline Britain, Death of Apartheid, Kenyon Confronts and Food Junkies. He holds awards from the BFI, the New York TV and Film Festival, Sony, Amnesty and was nominated for a documentary Emmy ( for Death of Apartheid ).

”One of the most significant and adjuring trends of the 20th century was indeed the rise of the middle” Stewart Lansley

”I think maybe the banks are too big to fail, but the middle is not”Stewart Lansley



Felix Preston, Senior Research Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources, Chatham House
Felix Preston is Senior Research Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources at Chatham House. Prior to this he was Senior Consultant at AEA Geoup and worked at the Environment Agency. He has a BSc in Geography and Environmental Science from the University of Sussex and a MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College London.

Felix specialises in energy security and energy policy, climate change risk and adaptation and European and Chinese climate policy. His publications and articles include Resources Futures, A Global Redesign? Shaping the Circular Economy and Election 2010: Party promises | Energy and environment – Chatham House’s verdict.



Further reading

Mapping class by Bejamin Sacks, Geography Directions, 2013