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Political engagement shouldn’t be a question of class. A new project is examining the gap and what to do about it

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 June 2020

Jan Germen Janmaat.

Social mobility is a widely shared ideal in practically all western countries: your family background should not matter for your education, your professional career and for where you end up in life. Consequently, social mobility has been a key concern of social scientists for decades – an interest reignited by the way the Covid crisis is fuelling inequalities in health, education, and the labour market.

Far fewer academics have been interested in the influence of family background on political engagement – i.e. interest in politics and the desire to participate in it. This is surprising as a lack of inter-generational ‘political’ mobility is likely to be as detrimental to social cohesion as a rigid class society. Democratically-elected governments are more incentivised to serve the interests of those who vote than those who are politically disengaged.  Since middle class people have higher levels of political engagement, this may contribute to a vicious circle in which people from disadvantaged backgrounds withdraw their support for democracy altogether. In other words, the passing down of disengagement across generatations may lead to a permanent and alienated ‘political’ underclass.

This is why the Nuffield Foundation has funded our project, entitled “Post-16 Educational Trajectories and Social Inequalities in Political Engagement” (April 2020 to September 2021), which aims to investigate: (more…)