Politicians continually tell us that anyone can get ahead. But is that really true? This important, best-selling book takes readers behind the closed doors of elite employers to reveal how class affects who gets to the top.
Friedman and Laurison show that a powerful 'class pay gap’ exists in Britain’s elite occupations. Even when those from working-class backgrounds make it into prestigious jobs, they earn, on average, 16% less than colleagues from privileged backgrounds. But why is this the case? Drawing on 175 interviews across four case studies – television, accountancy, architecture, and acting – they explore the complex barriers facing the upwardly mobile.
This is a rich, ambitious book that demands we take seriously not just the glass but also the class ceiling.
"A landmark text…without a doubt the most wide-ranging and envelope-pushing representation of the new Bourdieu-inspired work on social mobility" Sociology
“The Class Ceiling blows apart the myth of our supposed meritocracy.” The National (Scotland)
“This seminal work has updated our understanding of both modern Britain and the nature of class itself. It fuses theoretical prowess, revelatory data, gripping narrative and clear prose. All of us interested in meritocracy, whether real or imagined, owe the authors an enormous debt of gratitude.” Amol Rajan, BBC Media Editor
Recommended for all levels from upper-division undergraduates to faculty by CHOICE Connect.
"An excellent, mixed-methods, Bourdieu-driven study of how privilege creates a “following wind” that helps push people to the top of elite professions… An important innovation of this study is that the authors use ethnographic interviews and observations in four work settings to see how privilege helps not only with “getting in” but also the even more consequential steps of “getting on,” of rising to the elite levels."
“Marshals a wide range of data, analysis and experience in an accessible and readable manner... makes the continued existence of class bias in occupational and public life more difficult for cheerleaders of meritocracy to deny, and – crucially – offers ways to end it.” New Humanist
"The Class Ceiling was especially informative and an enjoyable, if not at times an angering, read." American Journal of Sociology
"With its careful attention to how social class and cultural capital operate across subfields, and for its attention to the need for change at micro, meso, and macro levels, Friedman and Laurison’s The Class Ceiling stands as a valuable contribution to sociological knowledge of how class and culture operate within elite professions." Contemporary Sociology
“Friedman and Laurison’s exemplary study demonstrates what a contemporary, methodologically plural and empirically rich sociology of inequality can look like in the 21st century. It overcomes established conceptual tensions within the field and thus points far beyond its specific object of investigation.” Soziopolis
"Reading The Class Ceiling hit home in so many places I felt bruised by the end. " The Guardian
"A well-conceived and important study which makes a significant contribution to knowledge about social mobility, and an important intervention into broader political debates" Selina Todd, University of Oxford
"This compelling book offers a fresh approach to understanding how social class matters. Easy to read, Highly recommended!" Annette Lareau, University of Pennsylvania
“One of the most insightful works on the dynamics of inequality since Wilkinson and Pickett’s The Spirit Level a decade ago” Herald Scotland
"Without question this is the most outstanding study of social mobility in the UK to have appeared in the past 20 years. Using a brilliant mixed method design, Friedman & Laurison trace the long shadow of class privilege in driving career prospects even in the supposedly dynamic sectors of today’s knowledge economy. Anyone who thinks Britain is a meritocracy needs to ponder the lessons of this wonderful book." Mike Savage, LSE
"This stunning book provides a panoramic overview of class inequality in the UK labour market with a forensic scrutiny of the ways in which privilege works to keep the class ceiling firmly in place." Diane Reay, University of Cambridge
“Friedman and Laurison show how it can possibly be that upwardly mobile executives and professionals earn less than those raised in the upper classes. Everybody in The Class Ceiling has a desirable job, but even in the upper reaches of British society, class roots matter.” Mike Hout, New York University
Sam Friedman is Associate Professor in Sociology, London School of Economics and a Commissioner at the Social Mobility Commission. He has published widely on social class, social mobility and elites. He is the author of Comedy and Distinction: The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour (Routledge 2014) and the co-author of Social Class in the 21st Century (Penguin, 2015). He tweets as @SamFriedmanSoc
Daniel Laurison is Assistant Professor at Swarthmore College, USA. Previously he was at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is Associate Editor of the British Journal of Sociology and tweets as @Daniel_Laurison
Untangling the class pay gap
Inside elite firms
The bank of Mum and Dad
A helping hand
View from the top
Class ceilings: A new approach to social mobility
Epilogue: 10 ways to break the class ceiling