The Class Pay Gap in Britain's Higher Professional and Managerial Occupations

Daniel Laurison, Sam Friedman
In this paper we demonstrate the way in which class origin shapes earnings in higher professional and managerial employment. Taking advantage of newly released class origin data in Britain's Labour Force Survey, we examine both the relative openness of different high-status occupations and the earnings of the upwardly mobile within them. In terms of access, we find a distinction between "traditional" professions, such as law, medicine and finance, which are dominated by the children of higher
more » ... hildren of higher managers and professionals, and more technical occupations such as engineering and IT that recruit more widely. However, even when those who are not from professional or managerial backgrounds are successful in entering high-status occupations, they earn sixteen percent less, on average, than those from privileged backgrounds. This class-origin pay gap translates to up to £7,350 ($11,000) lower annual earnings. This difference is partly explained by the upwardly mobile being employed in smaller firms and working outside London, but it remains substantial even net of a variety of important predictors of earnings. These findings underline the value of investigating differences in mobility rates between individual occupations as well as illustrating how, beyond entry, the mobile often face an earnings "class ceiling" within high-status occupations.