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Colloquium Series: Daniel Laurison
January 17, 2018 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
The Class Ceiling: The Culture of Firms and the Class-Origin Pay Gap in Elite Occupations
Work on the intergenerational transmission of class advantages and disadvantages tends to focus on the question of “getting in” – the ways that family, educational institutions, and hiring practices limit working-class-origin people’s chances for upward mobility, and tend to favour those from privileged origins. This research, which is part of a book to be published later in 2018, focuses instead on “getting on”: what happens when people from poor and working class backgrounds achieve substantial upward mobility and attain work in high-status, influential, and well-remunerated occupations.
In previous work (Laurison and Friedman 2016, ASR), we have shown a substantial “class pay gap” exists in Britain’s elite occupations: even when those from working-class origins make it into prestigious jobs in higher management and the professions, they earn, on average, about 16% less than colleagues from professional and managerial family backgrounds. This class-origin pay gap is partly attributable to differences in education, location, and occupation between the inter-generationally stable and the upwardly mobile, but about half the difference cannot be explained by any differences measurable with the survey data – even after controlling for these and other factors, the class-origin pay gap remains around 8-10%.
In this talk I will review evidence about the class pay gap from the UK as well a selection of comparable countries, and then describe our newer research on the experiences of the upwardly mobile in powerful firms and influential professions. Our case studies of three organizations – a television production company, a large multi-national accounting firm, and an architecture firm – as well an examination of the field of professional acting, allowed us to identify some of the mechanisms that may further explain the class-origin pay gap, as well as some dynamics that work against class-based pay differentials.