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Bristol researcher leads academic assessment of the government’s record on ‘fairness’

Front cover of Class Inequality in Austerity Britain

Front cover of Class Inequality in Austerity Britain

Press release issued: 22 October 2012

The impact of the economic downturn and political austerity on social class inequalities in the UK has been assessed in a collection of new research by some of the UK’s leading authorities on social class.

Class Inequality in Austerity Britain assesses the degree to which the coalition government formed in 2010 has met its pledge to be ‘fair’ in dealing with the economic downturn.

The publication, edited by Dr Will Atkinson, an expert on the British class system from the University of Bristol’s School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, along with colleagues from the University of Kent and the London School of Economics and Political Science, covers education, family policy, food consumption, community, the riots of August 2011 and economic policy.

The contributors demonstrate through research evidence that far from the wealthy taking their fair share of the burden, as often claimed, it is the working class who are hit hardest, lose the most and are stigmatised in the process. For example, while the middle class have generally remained unworried by increasing food and fuel prices, changing their everyday shopping and eating habits very little, the working class have had to give up many essentials and feel the strain of going without and the pressure of paying rising bills.

Other contributions demonstrate the negative effects of rises in tuition fees and withdrawal of funding for education programmes, challenge the depiction of working-class communities as ‘broken Britain’ and show the riots of August 2011 to be the product of a lack of opportunity and stigmatisation of neighbourhoods by the media and politicians.

“This is a major statement by the social scientific community on government policy” said Dr Atkinson, “which contributes to the growing academic consensus that there is a mismatch between talk of fairness and concern for social mobility on the one hand and government action on the other. The pain of the economic crisis and austerity hasn’t hit all equally. Those with the least to lose have lost the most.”

The book is published by Palgrave Macmillan.  ISBN No 978-1137016379


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