Unit 2 - Class

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Wealth and the Rich

AO2a - There is still an excessive concentration of wealth in our society with a small percentage of the population owning a significant and growing population of the wealth. The gap is also increasing between the wealthiest and poorer members of society. 


  • In 1976 the most wealthy 1% owned 21% of wealth
  • In 2002 the most wealthy 1% owned 24% of wealth
  • In 1976 the most wealthy 10% owned 50% of wealth
  • In 2002  the most wealthy 10% owned 57% of wealth
  • The wealthiest 1% owned approx a fifth of the UK's marketable wealth in 2003, in contrast, half of the the population shared only 7% of total wealth.

Adnonis and Pollard - stress the significance of the upper class in modern british society and they consider that there is an emerging 'superclass' that consists of an elite and extremely high paid managers and professionals.

Westergaard - far from disappearing, class inequalities are hardening. He sees class in Marxist/Weberian terms as determined by your position in the economic order. 

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The Low Paid

AO2a - A significant amount of the working population recieve low wages at or below the national minimum wage - this number is increasing. It affects a range of groups: female, young, disabled, single parents, and some ethnic minorities. It tends to trap people in low income jobs and creates poverty for children. 


  • In 2004 - 05, 16% of the population in Great Britain lived in low income households.
  • This rose steeply from the mid 1980s to reach a peak of 21% in the early 1990s.

Wadsworth - around 10% of British households rely on minimum wage income. He also points out that many minimum wage earners take a second job to supplement income.

Bryan and Taylor - Those who earn minimum wage tend to stay in minimum wage work jobs. More than 80% of minimum wage workers are female and over the age of 50.

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AO2a - At secondary school, middle class children perform significantly better than working class children at all levels, GCSE and A level. Middle class parents are also more successful at getting their children into the better performing schools in the more affluent areas. This means working class often go to more disadvantaged schools. Children on free school meals as an index of poverty are particulary disadvantaged.


  • In 1992 the higher professionals got 60% A* to C
  • In 2002 they got 77%
  • In 1992 the working class got 18% A* to C 
  • In 2002 they got 32%

Ball, Bowe and Gewirtz - middle class parents are in better positions than working class parents to ensure their children get to the school of their choice.

Smith and Noble - importance of material factors (having money allows parents to provide educational toys, books, healthy diet, more space to do homework, travel and private tuition)

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Higher Education

AO2a - Despite an overall increase in participation rate which has advantaged some working class children - the middle class are still significantly more likely to enter higher education. The difference becomes even greater when admission to the higher status Russell group universities (top 100 in the UK). 


  • In 1991, 35% of non manual social classes went into higher education, but in 2002 50% did.
  • In 1991, 11% of manual social classes went into higher education, but in 2002, 19% did.

Boliver - only 35% of candidates from semi/unskilled manual class origins applied to a Rusell group university in contrast to ^%% from professional backgrounds. 

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AO2a - The working class are over represented in those arrested for crime and sent to prison. They are also more likely to be victims of crime in the area they live. Police tend to target working class and make more arrests. Some middle class crime may be ignored or hidden. 

Braithwaite - working class children and adults commit the types of crime that are targeted by the police and do so at higher rates than middle class people.

Hope and Shaw - found that disadvantaged communities to be vunerable to youth crime. 

Karstedt - estimates that middle class crimes such as car tax avoidance, tax fraud and damaging items once worn in order to return them to shops may cost the UK something in the region of £14 billion each year. 

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AO2a - There are significant differences in the health life chances. Working class people are more likely to die earlier. They are also more likely to be born with health issues or develop them earlier in life than the middle class - they also have more long term conditions. This is linked to poverty, lack of control and the workplace - lifestyle choices also play a part. Working class tend to have have less access to health care professionals in the areas they live. This is also called the 'inverse care law'.

Data -

  • For the period 1997-99 life expectancy at birth in England and Wales for males in the professional group was 7.4 years more than those in the unskilled manual ground. The gap between the social classes was smaller for women than for men, at 5.7 years.
  • Over the last 20 years, the proportion of people who report they smoke has fallen.

Townsend - found that mortality rates for low class males were higher in 65 out of 78 disease categories and for low class females in 62 out of 82.

Spiker - adults in low social classes are more likely to suffer from cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease. 

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