Who are the rural working class?

Keith Hoggart, King's College London

[Project number 30020]

The rural studies literature is replete with messages that rural areas are middle class dominated. Yet there is still a sizeable population of manual workers in rural areas. Very little is known about this group. But as services decline in rural areas, and jobs are increasingly concentrated in towns, there is a suggestion that more working class residents are choosing to leave rural areas for market towns and even larger centres. This feature is not just related to young people, nor to those who reaching retirement age who are concerned about accessing services, but is hinted at on a broader front. These suggestions have not been subjected to systematic investigation. Hence, there is a need to identify (a) the basic attributes of the working classes in rural areas, such as age, household structure, recent migration history, occupations and housing tenure, (b) the attributes of those working class residents who leave rural areas, including assessing disparities between those who are home owners and tenants, and (c) the attributes of rural working class in-migrants, given the claims in the literature that the working class are being priced out of rural housing market. The analytical framework to be adopted will use the ONS classification of local authority districts to make comparisons across 'area types' exploring differences between rural and non-rural wards, using 1991-2001 data.

This proposal assumes similar ward-based identifiers are available for 2001 LS data as the applicant has used for the 1981 and 1991 censuses (e.g. Hoggart, 1997, Journal of Rural Studies). This essentially means a local government district identifier for place of residence and a ward-based identifier that can be used to designate LS members as living in rural, non-rural and city environments. A ward-based population density measure could be used to define rurality. The district and ward-based measures are needed to ensure that some districts of low population density [as in the City or London] are not counted as 'rural' simply because they have a low population density. As LS links informants across censuses this will enable transfers between different types of area to be identified, along with housing tenure changes. The difficulties of tracing out-migrants in survey research places the LS in a particularly strong position as regards identifying sender and destination attributes of rural out-migrants.