Embourgeoisement among Blue-collar Workers?*


  • *

    The data for the analysis were made available by the Inter-University Consortium for Political Research. Financial support for computer analysis of the data was provided by a training grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to the University of Washington and by a grant from the National Science Foundation to Dartmouth College. We are grateful to Lowell L. Hargens for his helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

Reprints of this article may be obtained by writing the authors at Department of Sociology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. 98195.


This paper examines the notion that blue-collar workers have been converting from working-class to middle-class orientations as a consequence of gains in income and education over the past few decades. Cross-sectional analysis of survey data for white workers and spouses reveals that a considerable manual-nonmanual subjective class schism persists when remaining differences in income and education are taken into account. The gap is maintained both by an adherence to working-class identification among blue-collar workers at all socioeconomic levels and by a weaker tendency for these workers, compared with white-collar workers, to use income and educational status as criteria for self-placement in the class system. Longitudinal analysis further indicates that embourgeoisement among blue-collar workers has been slight and suggests that the manual-nonmanual gap in class orientations is widening.