Aske Kragh Cryer

Keep Moving Forward: Class Differentials in Social Status from the Perspective of Adolescents

Class inequality in material resources and social status hierarchies of prestige have historically been deeply intertwined, yet the relationship between these twin systems of stratification in the affluent, democratic societies of contemporary Europe is unclear. The hard social divisions of the past where members of different class groups barely interacted with each other have faded away – yet people in lower socioeconomic positions still report feeling devalued and disparaged by their fellow citizens. This dissertation examines the relationship between class and status from a novel angle by investigating how it is understood by a segment of the population that is often neglected in research but hugely impactful in society: adolescents. Young people are acutely sensitive to the flow of status dynamics, and so we can view the status beliefs of adolescents as a valuable glimpse into the hierarchies that cut apart contemporary societies. I investigate these beliefs by combining interviews with Danish adolescents with statistical analysis of data on the occupational aspirations of young people from across Europe. I show that many adolescents maturing into contemporary European societies believe that social status and class inequality are closely linked, as they think that the wealthy, the highly educated, and those with exclusive careers get more respect in society than those in lower socioeconomic positions. This in turn motivates young people to strive for occupational positions at the top of society and to eschew jobs that would land them in the middle or the lower rungs of the class system.


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