The Great British Classes and Where they Live in London

By David Butler 09 Apr 2013

London split into the 7 new social classes using income and home-ownership as a proxy    

A recent study by BBC Lab UK has created seven new social classes in the UK, saying that the traditional upper, middle, lower class model is outdated. The study measured economic capital - income, savings, house value, social capital - the number and status of people someone knows and looked at cultural preferences such as the preferred destination/activity for/of social pastimes.

The seven social classes are (from the top) Elite, Established middle class, Technical middle class, New affluent workers, Traditional working class, Emergent service workers and Precariat, or precarious proletariat (see table below for a definition of each). Class has traditionally been defined by occupation, wealth and education. But this research argues that this is too simplistic, suggesting that class should consider three dimensions - economic, social and cultural.

We were keen to try to map this in London and determine the predominant class in each area. We were able to do this by using a weighted model which looked at two of the more important factors - gross individual income (from NOMIS) and home ownership levels (from the 2011 Census). We then ranked them and split them amongst the seven categories. The classes mapped show the dominant class for that area.

We don't necessarily agree that one's class is defined by whether or not they own their home or by their level of income. We feel that it's increasingly a lifestyle choice rather than a compromise, yet in order to follow the BBC's methodology and use accurate data, we had to base our analysis on these factors.

So in summary this map represents only two factors considered in the BBC study but is telling nonetheless. Incomes are generally highest in the centre of London and lowest on the periphery. For home-ownership levels, the reverse is true. That means we don't get the traditional "high-in-the-middle" pattern which is common in these sorts of analyses.

As you can see from the map above, there are however some clear patterns. For example the darker patterns in inner South West London (Chelsea, Kensington and Knightsbridge) and around Hampstead Heath (Golders Green, Hampstead and Highgate) - areas traditionally associated with the middle and upper classes.

We were keen to try to map the BBC's seven new social classes in London. To do this we used a weighted model of income and home-ownership as a proxy - 2 of the more important considerations under this new class classification.

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