top of page

Huge decline of working class people in the UK arts reflects fall in wider society

Study shows the proportion of musicians, writers and artists with working-class origins has shrunk by half since the 1970s

The proportion of working-class actors, musicians and writers has shrunk by half since the 1970s, new research shows.

Analysis of Office for National Statistics data found that 16.4% of creative workers born between 1953 and 1962 had a working-class background, but that had fallen to just 7.9% for those born four decades later.

This reflected a similar decline in the number of people with working-class origins, according to the paper in the journal Sociology by researchers from the universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and Sheffield. People whose parents had a working-class job accounted for about 37% of the workforce in 1981, but by 2011 that had fallen to about 21%.

The finding raises questions about why years of attempts to make the arts more open and diverse have not had more impact – people who grew up in professional families were four times more likely than those with working-class parents to be in creative work, the study found.

And with fewer film directors, authors or songwriters to describe the experience of growing up in a working-class household, some creatives fear their stories are being squeezed out of culture or confined to “poverty porn”.

“These class imbalances have been with us for a long time,” said Dave O’Brien, a professor of cultural and creative industries at the University of Sheffield and one of the paper’s authors.

Christopher Eccleston, who grew up in a working-class family in Salford, said in 2015: ‘I had a sense acting wasn’t for me because I’m not educated.’

6 views0 comments


bottom of page