Stay classy, U.K.: ‘Class calculator’ tells people where they fit into British society

Eric Pfeiffer

The British social class system isn’t what it once was, and most people would say that’s a good thing. Nonetheless, unofficial economic and cultural tiers still exist in the country. To address the ever-evolving stratification in the U.K., the BBC has launched its Great British class calculator.

The online tool lets people (even Americans) find out where they fit among seven newly designated class labels.

The two behind the calculator, Mike Savage from the London School of Economics and Fiona Devine from the University of Manchester, had first conducted the Great British Class Survey. They described the resulting calculator on the BBC website:

“We devised a new way of measuring class, which doesn't define class just by the job that you do, but by the different kinds of economic, cultural and social resources or 'capitals' that people possess,” they wrote of the results.

To start, the calculator asks some easily quantifiable questions, including how much annual income a person takes home, whether they own any property and how much, if any, money they have set aside in savings.

But from there, the questions become interestingly more subjective. For example, the next series of questions concern what types of people an individual knows socially, ranging from secretary to software designer.

Participants are then asked what sort of cultural activities they engage in. Do you go to museums or listen to hip-hop music? It apparently factors into your class ranking, even if you readily engage in both activities. The calculator also wants to know if you go to the gym to exercise.

So, how do the results work out? Well, if you listen to indie rock, go to the gym and make more than 50,000 pounds (about $80,000) per year, you likely fit into the “Technical Middle Class,” which the calculator describes as, “a small, distinctive and prosperous new class group,” defined by individuals who “mix socially with people similar to themselves, work in research, science and technical fields and enjoy emerging culture such as going to the gym and using social media.”

The data from the survey was also analyzed by academics from the University of York, City University, the University of Bergen in Norway and the Universite Paris Descartes in France. Responses were provided by 161,000 people.

The BBC notes that the new survey represents the largest ever of its kind.