Attitudes within the ‘creative economy’ reinforce inequality

Attitudes within the creative economy may actually reinforce inequality despite a reputation for meritocracy, according to new research by Dr Mark Taylor from The Sheffield Methods Institute.

In a new article for Sociological Research Online Dr Mark Taylor and Dr Dave O’Brien take a quantitative approach to this research using a data set collected in partnership with the Guardian.

Data from 2487 workers from the ‘creative economy’ –such as people who work in performance industries like actors and dancers to creative employees such as graphic designers and marketers – showed that attitudes towards meritocracy were no different from those of the general population. This reinforces inequality in term of access and progression in this industry, opposing the widely held belief that it is talent and hard work that is rewarded, rather than wealth and privilege.

The analysis of the data showed that it was those in the most privileged positions who supported the meritocratic views while less well paid respondents were the most aware of the inequality apparent in the sector.

Dr Mark Taylor said: “These results make fairly grim reading for those who hope that inequalities in the cultural and creative industries might diminish. Almost everyone believes that hard work, talent, and ambition are essential to getting ahead, while class, gender, ethnicity, and coming from a wealthy family aren’t. People in better positions in the sector – those who are the most highly-paid, and most likely to recruit and elevate the next generation – believe most strongly in the meritocratic account of the sector, and are most sceptical of the role of social reproduction.

“Sadly, attitudes held by creative workers, and who holds which attitudes, make it unlikely that access to the sector and trajectories of individual progression within the sector will change”.

The full article can be found at Sociological Research Online and an accompanying blog that has been quoted in this news-story.