Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 96

British class / American class

There’s been a survey doing the rounds on the good old BBC website to help you define which class of British person you are.

Really. Go on, do it!

I took it and I am Established Middle Class British, which I am a bit miffed about because that means I am AVERAGE.


Anyway, it is an amusing (and not entirely accurate) quiz to do, and one that my American chums might wish to partake in to see what they would be classed as if they were British.


My twitter friends and I debated about this quiz and British class-ness for a while with my favourite comment being: ‘class is more accent and word usage’ (like tea/dinner and loo/toilet and scone (skon) or scone etc). How the British class debate will forever rage on me thinks!

It made me wonder about the British class system in comparison to the American one.

This is what I found:

Social class in the United States is a controversial issue, having many competing definitions, models, and even disagreements over its very existence. Many Americans believe in a simple three-class model that includes the “rich”, the “middle class”, and the “poor”. More complex models that have been proposed describe as many as a dozen class levels; while still others deny the very existence, in the European sense, of “social class” in American society. Most definitions of class structure group people according to wealth, income, education, type of occupation, and membership in a specific subculture or social network.

Sociologists Dennis Gilbert, William Thompson, Joseph Hickey, and James Henslin have proposed class systems with six distinct social classes. These class models feature an upper or capitalist class consisting of the rich and powerful, an upper middle class consisting of highly educated and affluent professionals, a middle class consisting of college-educated individuals employed in white-collar industries, a lower middle class, a working class constituted by clerical and blue collar workers whose work is highly routinized, and a lower class divided between the working poor and the unemployed underclass.

Pyramid class final

So, it appears that it is based on money? Materialisam? Interesting…..

I need a dinner party with some American friends to get the lowdown (this probably means that I will be inviting upper-middle class and middle class Americans, just by the nature of having a dinner party….). Perhaps I should invite people from all ends of the spectrum so that I can better understand it. Or better yet, why don’t I get on The View and ask those nice ladies….. πŸ™‚

Anyway, this Established Middle Class Brit is popping off for a herbal tea in her undies, so that she doesn’t look quite so average……. πŸ˜‰

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14 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 96

  1. EmmaK says:

    As far as I can work out in USA what class you are in is self determined i.e. is largely a perception of where you see yourself in the social/earnings hierarchy whereas in the UK what class you is all to do with your background, education, accent intermingled all together and there is little you can do about it.

  2. Yes, Americans look at the British class system as sort of old-school. It’s interesting that the UK and Europe are so progressive in many ways but still focus so much on class (although I think not as much these days as in the past.) It’s difficult for us to comprehend that the class you’re born in is the one you’re stuck with no matter what efforts you make. Even if you are born working class and you get an education and a white collar job you’ll always be considered working class by some. It’s as if you’re not allowed to improve your lot in life. But that’s the American dream – to do better than your parents did- and it’s celebrated!

    • This is so interesting and there is so much more to it. I feel a Guardian sociological study should ensue! And what I love about blogging about stuff like this is the brilliant comments and debate πŸ™‚

  3. Stacey says:

    Too funny, I just don’t worry about it and keep on keepin on!! I mean really, I don’t like to be labeled! I’ve always been proud to be middle class. The other classes are too troublesome! Either snobby or starving, no tha!nks, I’ll just keep on working, keeping up my home, paying my taxes and living my life to the best of my abilities!

  4. annierie says:

    OK, so I’m elite. Why? Being old and retired, we have our nest egg established to live on, and we have owned homes for 35 years, meaning here in Columbia area, where they are more costly than other places, we fall into a top bracket on the UK survey. Their definition for most expensive housing is your pretty average house in Howard County.

    Also, the median income here in HoCo is over $100K, which almost puts anyone in a professional position in that highest category on the survey. Here in the US, we are considered to be upper middle class, because of advanced degrees, professional careers and owning a nice home.

    We also have friends in all sorts of positions, so interesting that the survey makes that a positive, to “socialize with a wide range of people”. As for interests, we are all over the place on that one. I think I checked most of those boxes, except for opera πŸ™‚

    I know here in the US I don’t consider us elite. It was an eye opening exercise to take the survey.

  5. Awesome post! Yeah the differences are definitely apparent. But I love being different πŸ˜‰

  6. jacqueline moore says:

    Interesting article-and reactions. “so this is based on money? Materialism?” Not quite. Paris Hilton, for example has lots of money but is trash. Someone who make hundreds of millions of dollars, has 5 mansions, fleets of jets cars yachts-all bought with profits from selling drugs, child pornography, etc. is lower than trash. Class has more to do with conduct , sometimes a good education is connected to that, but lots of idiots from very fine schools. Philanthropy is huge factor in the U.S., building hospitals, libraries, etc. But true grace is often found in people with little money or schooling. You mentioned in the UK friends listing accent/usage. Isn’t it really about lineage?

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