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Working Class Britain

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10/05/2006

The number of Britons claiming they are middle class has increased by 44% in the last 40 years, but more than half the people in the UK still believe they are working class, new research has found.

The research from Liverpool Victoria, based on a survey of 1,000 people, found that 53% of people still thought they were working class, even after a 14% rise in the number of people regarding themselves as middle class since 1966.

However, many people were confused as to what class they were, the report stated. It found that 2.67 million people claimed they were working class, despite the fact that they were amongst the top 20% of British earners.

The confusion over the class divide also deepened, as the report found 36% of builders thought they were middle class, while some 29% of bank managers believed they were working class.

The report’s authors suggested these findings meant that the traditional factors for defining class had now changed.

While family background, education and profession were still important, it claimed that peoples’ savings, investments, and property holdings were increasingly influential in defining class.

The report said a middle class person generally now had twice the savings and three times the investments as someone who was working class, as they took a longer term approach to saving than the working classes, who were content to “live for the moment”.

Additionally, a middle class person earned an average of £25,485, some £4932 more than the average working class person.

Middle class people also had more valuable homes, worth on average 70% more than the working class equivalent, and a middle class person was also 10% more likely to own their house outright – with no mortgage commitments.

Yet education was still a key factor in the class debate, as four times as many middle class people held degrees than working class people, showing that they were more likely to have remained in education longer.

Liverpool Victoria’s head of corporate communications, Nigel Snell, said: “The wealth gap between the classes is significant and may be compounded by the shorter-term attitude to saving and slightly higher debt burden of the working classes. Saving regularly for the future is something that we should all be doing more of and we would encourage everyone to try to put something by, if only a little and often, to help build up a nest egg for the future.”

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