Theorising social class and its application to the study of health inequalities

McCartney, G., Bartley, M., Dundas, R. , Katikireddi, S. V. , Mitchell, R. , Popham, F. , Walsh, D. and Wami, W. (2019) Theorising social class and its application to the study of health inequalities. SSM - Population Health, 7, 100315. (doi: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2018.10.015) (PMID:31297431) (PMCID:PMC6598164)

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The literature on health inequalities often uses measures of socio-economic position pragmatically to rank the population to describe inequalities in health rather than to understand social and economic relationships between groups. Theoretical considerations about the meaning of different measures, the social processes they describe, and how these might link to health are often limited. This paper builds upon Wright’s synthesis of social class theories to propose a new integrated model for understanding social class as applied to health. This model incorporates several social class mechanisms: social background and early years’ circumstances; Bourdieu’s habitus and distinction; social closure and opportunity hoarding; Marxist conflict over production (domination and exploitation); and Weberian conflict over distribution. The importance of discrimination and prejudice in determining the opportunities for groups is also explicitly recognised, as is the relationship with health behaviours. In linking the different social class processes we have created an integrated theory of how and why social class causes inequalities in health. Further work is required to test this approach, to promote greater understanding of researchers of the social processes underlying different measures, and to understand how better and more comprehensive data on the range of social class processes these might be collected in the future.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Dundas, Ms Ruth and Katikireddi, Dr Vittal and Wami, Welcome and McCartney, Gerard and Popham, Dr Frank and Mitchell, Professor Rich and Walsh, Mr David
Authors: McCartney, G., Bartley, M., Dundas, R., Katikireddi, S. V., Mitchell, R., Popham, F., Walsh, D., and Wami, W.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:SSM - Population Health
ISSN (Online):2352-8273
Published Online:02 November 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors
First Published:First published in SSM - Population Health 7:100315
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727651SPHSU Core Renewal: Measuring and Analysing Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health Research ProgrammeAlastair LeylandMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/13IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
699162Understanding the impacts of welfare policy on health: A novel data linkage studySrinivasa KatikireddiChief Scientist office (CSO)SCAF/15/02IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU