Survey Variable: Occupational Status of Acquaintances

Figure 1. See also Table A1.

One of the key components of social capital is the status of the people that we know. Status can be measured in numerous ways, but occupation is often taken as a key indicator. Moving in the same circles as judges, military officers, and company directors is a rather different proposition than socialising with call centre workers, delivery drivers, and waiting staff. One might expect to be able to ask quite different favours of the people in those two networks, and to receive requests to do quite different things from them. As such, the survey asked respondents whether they had any acquaintances from a range of occupational types (the example occupations that were provided to illustrate each type of occupation can be found at the bottom of this post).

Figure 1 (above, using weighted data) shows that almost three quarters of people (73.1%) know someone who is employed as a professional by the state (such as a teacher or a social worker), whilst almost two thirds (65.8%) know someone in a technical or skilled manual occupation (such as a mechanic or plumber). More than half of people know someone in a traditional profession (such as solicitor or doctor), in a clerical or administrative (e.g., secretary or call centre agent) or semi-routine service (e.g., sales assistant or catering assistant) occupation, or who is unemployed.[1] The least-known occupations are senior managers and technical professionals and approaching a third of people (29.1% and 30.0% respectively) know someone in each of those areas.

None of the above indicates patterns in terms of how many people know others who are in high or low status occupation. In other words, it is not that case that many more people know someone in middle or low status occupations than in high status occupations, or vice versa. Indeed, it is likely that a large part of the reason for the variation in how many people know each type of occupation is simply how common the occupations are. There are lots of teachers and social workers but fewer senior managers, so it stands to reason that people are more likely to know someone in the former group than the latter. However, it remains to be seen whether people who know someone in certain occupations are also likely to know people in certain other occupations. For instance, it may be the case that people who know someone in one type of high-status occupation are also more likely to know people in other high-status occupations. That will be investigated subsequently but, for now, we can look at how many different occupation types people know someone from.

Figure 2 (below, using weighted data) shows that the distribution of how many different occupations people know someone from is quite flat. More than three fifths of people (62.8%) know someone from between four and different types of occupation, with more than one in twelve giving each of those answers. It is only at the extremes (knowing no-one from any of the types of occupation, or knowing someone from thirteen or fourteen of the types) that we see very small numbers. Thus, people tend to know someone from a moderate or large number of types of occupation, but few people have networks that are at the extremes of homogeneity or heterogeneity in terms of occupational status.

Figure 2. See also Table A2.
Type of occupationExample occupations
State professionalTeacher, nurse, or social worker
Artist or performerArtist, musician, or performer
Clerical or administrativeSecretary, office clerk, or call centre agent
Senior managerChief executive, finance manager, or military officer
Technical or skilled manualMechanic, plumber, electrician, gardener, or farmer
Semi-routine manualPostal worker, security guard, caretaker,
machine operator, or farm worker
Semi-routine serviceSales assistant, catering assistant, or receptionist
Routine manualMilitary non-officer, labourer, porter, or cleaner
Routine transportBus, coach, lorry, or van driver
Routine serviceWaiter or waitress, or bar staff
Middle managerPub, shop, bank, office, or restaurant manager
Traditional professionalAccountant, solicitor, or medical practitioner
Technical professionalCivil engineer, researcher, or scientist
UnemployedNo job (long-term unemployed)
Example occupations provided to respondents in relation to each occupation type.
Variable namessc_wk_modprofstate_b, sc_wk_modprofcreat_b,
sc_wk_clerical_b, sc_wk_senmanag_b,
sc_wk_technical_b, sc_wk_semiroutmanu_b,
sc_wk_semiroutserv_b, sc_wk_routmanu_b,
sc_wk_routtran_b, sc_wk_routserv_b,
sc_wk_midmanag_b, sc_wk_tradprof_b,
sc_wk_research_b, sc_wk_unemp_b
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories2
Categories to code as missingNone
Cases to code as missingNone
Recoded variable namesc_wk_count
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories11
New and old categoriesCategory 1 (‘Yes’) on each of the original
variables was counted as 1 (i.e.
indicating that the activity is done on
holiday), with category 0 (‘No’) counted
as zero. As such, 0 on the new variable
indicates that no-one in any of the types
of occupation asked about is known,
whilst 14 indicates that someone in
every type of occupation is known.
Details of the original and recoded occupational status of acquaintances variables.

[1] We cannot, unfortunately, know what people had in mind when they indicated whether they knew someone who is unemployed and this could be people who are, for instance, seeking work, retired, or stay-at-home parents.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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