People from working class families are not only less likely to secure jobs in high-status occupations, but will earn thousands of pounds a year less when they get there, according to new LSE research.
Those from working class backgrounds end up earning an average of 16 per cent less than their colleagues from more privileged origins. That amounts to a “class-origin pay gap” of around £7,350 a year in sought-after fields of work such as the law, medicine and finance.
Dr Daniel Laurison and Dr Sam Friedman of LSE’s Sociology Department said their findings, based on official employment data, suggest that class still casts a “long shadow” over people’s life chances in Britain, limiting social mobility not only into top professions but often within them. Class premium is not just confined to private firms, but can be seen particularly clearly in some public sector professions.
The study, published in the American Sociological Review, uses figures from the UK Labour Force Survey. Researchers analysed people’s earnings based on the occupation of the main breadwinner in their home when they were a teenager. They found that those in high-status occupations whose parents also had professional or managerial jobs were themselves likely to earn significantly more than those in comparable roles but whose parents were in more lowly lines of work.
They concluded that those from less privileged backgrounds are likely to be suffering a subtle form of discrimination where people with certain accents or cultural interests are, often unconsciously, singled out for promotion or fare better in interviews or performance appraisals.
The authors conclude: “In terms of access, 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 more technical occupations such as engineering and IT that recruit more widely.
“However, even when those who are not from professional or managerial backgrounds are successful in entering high-status occupations, they earn sixteen per cent less, on average, than those from privileged backgrounds. This class-origin pay gap translates to up to £7,350 lower annual earnings.
“This difference is partly explained by the upwardly mobile being employed in smaller firms and working outside London, but it remains substantial even net of a variety of important predictors of earnings.”
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Source: London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)