RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


16 The London nexus – metropolitan elites in the 21st century, new perspectives on Britain’s south-eastern skew
Convenor(s) Sol Gamsu (King's College London, UK)
Chair(s) Sol Gamsu (King's College London, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Session abstract London has long been a nexus for the reproduction of economic cultural and political elites within the UK (Rubinstein 1987; Martin, 1988; Dorling, 2008). Despite political devolution and the current political lip service paid to creating a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, London remains the focus for Britain’s cultural and economic elites. Recent work from the Great British Class Survey has provided new perspectives on the geography of British elites (Cunningham and Savage, 2015) across the UK and within London. In this session we develop these new perspectives bringing new methodological approaches to administrative and survey data on the income, education and geography of elites in London. We examine the existence of a ‘class ceiling’ amongst London’s elite professions which is not present elsewhere in the country. In other UK regions upward mobility from lower socio-economic groups within top professions is not limited by the same barriers that are found in London, suggesting that the pinnacle of elite professions in London remain particularly exclusive. The geography of elite groups within the capital is also examined, highlighting particular patterns of cultural and economic elites clustered in particular neighbourhoods. Finally, the elite educational infrastructure of London and the South-East is examined with a geography of private school participation revealing distinctive trends since the crisis. Recent university destinations data also reveal how Oxford and Cambridge recruit from a small number of elite ‘feeder schools’ in and around London. These papers provide a new perspective on the old dominance of the UK, and England in particular, by London. They provide a clinical analysis of the contemporary geography of elites and highlights the serious implications of the continued concentration of cultural and economic power in the capital.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
London: an elite and dividing city
Niall Cunningham (Durham University, UK)
Mike Savage (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
This paper contributes to current debates around elites by positioning those debates within a broader consideration of London's social class structure at the start of the twenty-first century. Much of that debate has focussed on the use of census metrics to argue the case for whether or not the capital has become more or less middle class in composition between 2001 and 2011. We contend that the middle class has become confused in the course of this debate and is of less critical importance for an understanding of the city's contemporary class structure than is a focus on London's elite. We make use of data from the BBC's Great British Class Survey (GBCS) to shed light on the social, cultural and economic resources of this group, in addition to their spatial location. We then return to the census data for 2001 and 2011 and posit that rather than presenting an image of stability in London's class structure these data suggest clear patterns of polarisation in class geographies within the capital characterised by a growing cleavage between Inner and Outer London.

Mind The Gap: London and the Inter-Regional Class Pay Gap in Britain
Sam Friedman (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
Daniel Laurison (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
The hidden barriers, or 'gender pay gap', preventing women from earning equivalent incomes to men is well documented. Yet recent research has uncovered that, in Britain, there is also a comparable 'class origin pay gap' in higher professional and managerial occupations. So far this analysis has only been conducted at the national level, implicitly assuming that class pay disadvantage is occurring equally throughout the UK. This paper uses data from the 2014 Labour Force Survey to stage a more spatially-sensitive analysis that examines inter-regional differences in the class pay gap. We find that the 'class ceiling' is not at all evenly spatially distributed. Instead it is particularly marked in metropolitan work contexts and especially Inner London, where those in high-status occupations who are not from privileged backgrounds earn, on average, £9000 less per year than those whose parents were in higher professional and managerial employment. Moreover, while observed differences between the socially mobile and the stable account some of this gap at the national level, in London the gap remains essentially unexplained. Finally, we inspect the capital further to reveal that the class pay gap is particularly marked within London's large private sector firms. Challenging policy conceptions of London as the 'engine room' of social mobility, these findings suggest that class disadvantage within high-status occupations is particularly acute in the capital. The findings also underline the value of investigating inter-regional differences in social mobility, and demonstrate how such analysis can unravel important and previously unrecognized spatial dimensions of class inequality.

Educating the 'Crown Heartland': Understanding London's field of elite schooling and the structural geography of educational power in the UK
Sol Gamsu (King's College London, UK)
This paper examines the concentration of elite secondary schools in and around London. Nairn's (2011) critique of the British monarchy described the concentration of ideological and economic power on the South-East as forming a 'Crown Heartland', uniting the cultural vestiges of aristocratic power with the state and the resurgent financial sector. There are many other accounts of the dominance of the South-East over the rest of England, including most recently an examination of elite clustering in London (Cunningham and Savage, 2015). Whilst vague references are often made to the concentration of private schools in South-East England, little work has been done to examine the historical roots or contemporary situation of this geographically concentrated educational infrastructure for elite social reproduction. This paper attempts to fill this gap by providing a historical and socio-spatial analysis of these elite schools. I first outline how and why a large concentration of private schools developed in and around the capital in the late 19th century and argue that the educational culture within them became nationally dominant. I then map contemporary patterns of entry to Oxbridge by school to reveal how there continues to be a spatial dominance by elite schools in the South-East. Finally, within London more specifically, I use social network analysis methods to reveal the hierarchy of the field of post-16 education in the capital. This analysis of school to university flows reveals the maintenance of a bi-partite divide in access to higher education nested within this broader structural geography of educational power.

Is this displacement? Pushing the boundaries of super-gentrification in London's Alpha Territory
Luna Glucksberg (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)
This paper addresses flows of capital and people taking place in London's Alpha Territories, a geo-demographic term used to define its most elite neighbourhoods, from Chelsea to South Kensington, from Mayfair to Hampstead. The question I ask is whether these movements, and the changing dynamics of class, space and capital in these areas can be classified as displacement following gentrification. I consider this issue from an ethnographic perspective, following two years of intensive fieldwork and interviews. Can you call yourself 'displaced' when you are moving away with a few million pounds in your pocket? Respondents from Highgate estimated their house was worth around ten million pounds; in Notting Hill they thought it was around two to three million. If gentrification is about displacing one class of people to make space for another, as by the original definition by Ruth Glass, does this count as gentrification? Are these people victims of gentrification? Or is even thinking that an insult to all the tenants and impoverished leaseholders affected by these processes in inner-city London? Does the paradigm of gentrification and displacement hold when applied to the Alpha Territories, or does it not?