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Breaking the ‘class’ ceiling?: social mobility into Britain's elite occupations

Friedman, Sam, Laurison, Daniel and Miles, Andrew (2015) Breaking the ‘class’ ceiling?: social mobility into Britain's elite occupations. Sociological Review, 63 (2). pp. 259-289. ISSN 0038-0261

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Identification Number: 10.1111/1467-954X.12283


In this paper we use the unusually large sample size of the Great British Class Survey to compare rates of social mobility into different elite occupations. We find a distinction between ‘traditional’ professions, such as law, medicine and finance, which are dominated by the children of higher managers and professionals, and technical or emerging high-status occupations, particularly those related to IT, that appear to recruit more widely. Second, we find that even when the upwardly mobile are successful in entering elite occupations they invariably fail to accumulate the same economic, cultural and social capital as those from privileged backgrounds. While many such differences may be explained by inheritance, we also find that the mobile tend to have considerably lower incomes. Investigating this further we demonstrate that even when controlling for important variables such as schooling, education, location, age, and cultural and social capital, the upwardly mobile in eight occupations – located largely in the business sector – have considerably lower incomes than their higher-origin colleagues. These findings underline the value of analyses of mobility into specific high-status occupations as well as illustrating how, beyond entry, the mobile often face considerable disadvantage within occupations.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 The Authors. The Sociological Review © 2015 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2015 11:03
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2023 03:00

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