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Demonstrating Distinction at ‘the Lowest Edge of the Black-coated Class’: The Family Expenditures of Edwardian Railway Clerks

Families at the bottom end of the Edwardian white-collar income spectrum demonstrated middle-class status through observable consumption, at the cost of squeezing other expenditures, including ‘necessities’. This had negative economic impacts, lowering living standards due to inefficiently high budget shares for positional goods. Drawing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, we examine how railway clerks sought to demonstrate ‘distinction’ from manual workers through certain conspicuous expenditures and how this strategy was progressively undermined by falling real incomes over the Edwardian period.

Published on 1st December 2014
Authors Professor Peter Scott, Prof James T Walker
Series Reference IBH-2014-04