The proposed research has two overarching objectives:
First, it aims to examine whether it is possible and appropriate to extend a novel way of measuring social class recently devised for the United Kingdom to other post-industrial nations for the purposes of cross-national comparative research.
Second, the project aims to explore, through both statistical analysis and qualitative interviews, how social class is actually lived, experienced and balanced against other pressures and sources of recognition in everyday life, with a focus on three specific nations: the United States, Germany and Sweden.
This research has two aims. The first is to see if it is possible to think about socio-economic inequalities differently from how they are usually portrayed. We tend to think of inequality as being a single hierarchy running from high to low, with an elite class at the top, a lower class at the bottom and a middle class in between. But is it possible to see socio-economic inequalities, and classes, as being defined by more than just a single hierarchy of more and less of all key resources? Recent academic research suggests yes, with the standard hierarchy being complemented by another one distinguishing those that are rich in economic terms (income and wealth), but not so highly educated, from those that are more highly educated but not so rich when it comes to money. The current project intends to see how far this picture of inequality, and classes, applies to three major societies: the US, Sweden and Germany.
The second aim of the research is to explore a specific aspect of class inequalities: their effect on work-life balance. How do men and women with different amounts and kinds of resources juggle the demands of family and work? What are the common tensions or worries, and what tactics have people developed for coping with them? If some people are managing just fine and others not, what are the reasons for that? Might they relate the resources at their disposal, and how does that differ across different countries? This part of the research will involve a survey aiming to map out the general picture, but it will also involve talking to around 20 people in each of the three nations already mentioned to gain detailed illustrations and examples of people’s experiences. These will hopefully be used to inform policy proposals aimed at making people’s lives easier.