Is class changing? Evidence from BHPS retrospective work- life histories

Publication type

Research Paper

Series Number



Working Papers of the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change


Publication date

July 1, 1997


Has the massive transformation of the class structure over the twentieth century changed the consequences of class? In particular, does the fact that the salariat has taken over from the manual working classes as the largest category mean that the implications of membership of the salariat for one's life chances is no longer the same? This paper takes retrospective life- history data from the British Household Panel Study and models patterns of change in the structure of work-life mobility between the ages of 25 and 35 for individuals born between 1900 and 1959. The purpose is to seek evidence of broad changes in the consequences of class, through the middle and late 20th century, using an extremely valuable data resource. The evidence suggests that there is cross-cohort change in the patterns of work-life mobility, both in terms of traditional class categories and in terms of the relationship between class and more general employment status categories, but more strongly in the latter case. In general, the pattern is one of declining immobility, including declining salariat retentiveness. The paper concludes with a consideration of what the data mean, and what this particular bounded analysis has to say about the question of change in the consequences of class.



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