There was no golden age: Social mobility into cultural and creative occupations

Brook, O., O’Brien, D. & Taylor, M. (2019) British Sociological Association, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK 24 – 26 April 2019 [ONS LS]

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Abstract:

Cultural and creative industries are currently narrated in policy and by key public figures as one of the greatest forces for openness and social mobility in Britain (Hancock 2016). However, there is scarce evidence to support this position. Recent research suggests creative and cultural occupations are dominated by those from professional and managerial backgrounds, with cultural theorists arguing this reflects declining rates of social mobility over time. This paper provides the first empirical assessment of claims made by policy and cultural theory concerning changing patterns of social mobility into cultural and creative occupations. We use the ONS Longitudinal Study to offer the first analysis of changes in social mobility into creative occupations over time. We demonstrate that: creative occupations have always been characterised by overrepresentations of those from privileged social origins, with little evidence of a classless meritocracy; absolute social mobility is declining in these occupations, contradicting policymakers' faith in a 'meritocracy' for talented individuals aiming to work in artistic and cultural jobs; this is in contrast to stability in relative social mobility, indicating there was no 'golden age' for social mobility into cultural occupations. These three points underline the importance of occupational perspectives on creative industries and the value of sociological analysis for public policy questions in this area. In particular, the lack of social fluidity in the occupations producing culture is a key issue for future public policy intervention.

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Output from project: 1008121

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