Wednesday, July 25, 2007


There might be some mileage in analysing the work of writers like Nick Cohen in a "Hegelian" way. Cohen's What's Left isn't really of or for the working class, its closer to being a book calculated to irritate anyone who belongs to the working class and reads books about politics, i.e. its ostensible target audience; even as disinformation it is useless. Nor can one imagine the plutocrats for whom Cohen works finding anything useful or even cheering in his miserable hack work. It truly appears as bourgeois ideology reproduced through an imagined version of its implied ideal recipient.

Obviously the rabbit eater is partly a joke, but there's no reason why it shouldn't be accurate. For this reason I'm trying to locate some proper statistics for class composition in Great Britain. These are some statistics for the US, from Dennis Gilbert The American Class Structure: In An Age of Growing Inequality (2002):

Capitalist class 1%
"Top-level executives, high-rung politicans, heirs with incomes in the top 1%"

Upper middle class 15%
"Highly educated, most commonly salaried, professionals and middle management with large work autonomy"

Lower middle class 30%
"Semi-professionals and craftsmen with a roughly average standard of living. Most have some college education and are white collar"

Working class 30%
"Clerical and most blue collar workers whose work is highly routinized. Standard of living varies depending on number of income earners, but is commonly just adequate"

Working poor 13%
"Service, low-rung clerical and some blue collar workers. High economic insecurity and risk of poverty"

Underclass 12%
"Those with limited or no participation in the labor force. Reliant on government transfers"


ktismatics said...

Here are some summary results from a 2006 meta-analysis Miles Corak looking at cross-generational income mobility in various affluent countries. The statistic of interest is "earnings elasticity." A score of .00 means there's no relationship between parents' and childrens' incomes. A score of 1.00 means that there's a 100% association; i.e., if one set of parents earns twice as much as another set, then their children will experience the same differentiation in earnings. So the higher the score, the more rigid the earnings inequalities from one generation to the next. Hopefully that makes sense.

Anyhow, here are the results:
Denmark .15
Norway .17
Finland .18
Canada .19
Sweden .27
Germany .32
France .41
USA .47
UK .50

In brief, Britain and the United States have the least inter-generational income elasticity among the nations included in the study.

catmint said...

thanks ktismatics!

That's quite a pronounced variation. I'm actually surprised when the expected effects of the "efficient market" don't apply, as seems to be the case here. I'll try to have a look at Corak's methodology. The funding for tertiary education in the UK has completely changed in the past ten years (presumably discouraging more students from working class backgrounds), but the effect can't have been that much.