The Class Ceiling review – why it pays to be privileged

What affects whether you get promoted? Not just your ability, argue sociologists Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison

Social mobility is not a myth, but meritocracy is a sham. It is possible, though difficult, to come from a working-class background and enter the elite professions, but, as sociologists Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison point out in this innovative study, you will find it harder to progress and you’ll earn less money, even when you have the same degree from the same university as someone with more privileged beginnings. On average, in fact, you’ll earn £7,000 a year less.

If you’re a black British woman with working-class origins, the “class pay gap” for those working in top jobs is an astonishing £20,000. If you’re a white upper middle-class man, the path to the top is as smooth as ever. But how does this happen? To adopt a phrase from Pierre Bourdieu, the French sociologist to whom the authors’ work is indebted – how does “social reproduction” at the top occur?

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