Research in the UK reveals a decline in the proportion of people employed in creative work. That’s not good.
The proportion of working-class actors, musicians and writers has shrunk by half since the 1970s, new research shows.
Analysis of Office for National Statistics data found that 16.4% of creative workers born between 1953 and 1962 had a working-class background, but that had fallen to just 7.9% for those born four decades later.
I wonder why. The article doesn’t get around to giving a good explanation; there’s one waffling attempt to wave it away by saying that there is a smaller pool of working class people to draw from now, as if everyone is just wealthier now so naturally you’re going to have fewer lower middle class people going into the arts. But then, I’m confused by what they also say:
The finding raises questions about why years of attempts to make the arts more open and diverse have not had more impact – people who grew up in professional families were four times more likely than those with working-class parents to be in creative work, the study found.
But then, if everyone is generally moving up to the professional class, shouldn’t there be a flowering of the arts in the UK? I don’t think we’re getting the full story here. I’d want to know the change in proportion of creatives from the whole population, not just a single class. It makes the story uninterpretable to leave that out.
I would suggest though, that from the American side, part of the story has to be the transformation of education from an endeavor to help people learn more to one that’s all about landing a good job. And that change is driven by the fact that higher ed has become so expensive that it’s pricing itself out of reach of the working class. Even in the 1970s, as a member of a working class family, college was not encouraged — in those years, I could pay for it with part-time and summer work, but it meant delaying getting a good union job in a trade for four years, and that was lost income. Now you go to college, it means racking up $100,000 in debt. You better not major in poetry or literature or dance with that kind of debt hanging over your head! Computers and chemical engineering, on the other hand…