About ‘Is Britain Pulling Apart?’

The project ‘Is Britain Pulling Apart – Analysis of Generational Change in Social Distances’ is a research study which investigates social distance between people within the UK. Patterns of social interaction are mapped to explore the closeness, or distance, between social groups. These are traced across recent decades to explore if social interaction structures have altered in parallel with major demographic and other social changes (such as changes in family structure and employment patterns, and innovations in travel and communication).

Various measures of connections and connectivity are assessed. Interactions are measured through marriage, friendship or household sharing networks. Social groupings can be based upon positions, attitudes or outcomes, such as political values and viewpoints, media consumption, volunteering and leisure interests or health and educational outcomes. We apply our extensive background in measuring social interaction distance between occupational groups, to explore how distant other social groups are from each other and whether this changes over time.

Data is analysed from major UK (and European) social surveys, including Understanding Society, the British Household Panel Survey, the 1958 and 1970 cohort studies and when available data from national censuses (e.g. using IPUMS-I). Multilevel modelling, social network analysis and social interaction distance analyses are amongst the methods used.

This study analyses the benefits, utilisation and stratification of social capital in the UK. We will pull apart the often conflicting dimensions of connectivity to understand which social ties hold the strongest influences; how diverse people’s networks are; levels of segregation and diversity across the multiple identities individuals possess (i.e., Christian, socialist, Times reader, swimmer); and the role of attraction and repulsion in determining whom we interact with.

The project builds upon two earlier endeavours concerned with studying social distance between occupations. The ongoing CAMSIS project, which was initiated by Kenneth Prandy, is a long-standing exercise in generating scales which summarise the ‘social interaction distance’ between occupations, through analysis of patterns in the marriage or friendship connections of the incumbents of occupations (this project is itself the contemporary incarnation of what is widely known in the UK as the ‘Cambridge Scale’). The related ‘SONOCS’ project, from which the current project follows directly, involved widening the scope of methods used to explore social connections between occupations, making use of techniques such as social network analysis and multilevel modelling.

Our project website can be found at: http://www.camsis.stir.ac.uk/pullingapart/

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