Consumption, Food and Taste: Culinary Antinomies and Commodity Culture
Publication Year: 1997
Exploring the expression of taste through the processes of consumption this book provides an incisive and accessible evaluation of the current theories of consumption, and trends in the representation and purchase of food. Alan Warde outlines various theories of change in the twentieth century, and considers the parallels between their diagnoses of consumer behaviour and actual trends in food practices. He argues that dilemmas of modern practical life and certain imperatives of the culture of consumption make sense of food selection. He suggests that contemporary consumption is best viewed as a process of continual selection among an unprecedented range of generally accessible items which are made available both commerciall
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Consumption, Taste and Social Change
- Sociology and Consumption
- Consumption: From Habitus to Freedom
- Social Forces and the Transformation of Distinction
- Explanations of Changing Consumption
- The Complexity of Consumption
- Chapter 2: The New Manners of Food: Trends and Their Sociological Interpretation
- The Sociology of Food
- Diminishing Contrasts and Increasing Variation: Mennell's Projection
- Four Sociological Theses on Changing Food Habits
- Chapter 3: Measuring Change in Taste
- Representations of Food: The Contents of Women's Magazines
- Household Food Expenditure
- Household Arrangements and Eating: A Survey in Greater Manchester
- Chapter 4: Novelty and Tradition
- Change and Continuity in the British Diet
- The Antinomy Dissected: The Ambivalence of Modernity
- Novelty, Custom and Generation
- Chapter 5: Health and Indulgence
- Disciplining the Body and Pampering the Soul
- Health in the Recipe Columns
- Policies for Health
- Bodies and Weight Control: Discipline and Choice
- The Bodily Condition
- Chapter 6: Economy and Extravagance
- Material Resources
- Income and Food Consumption
- Class Differences Over Time
- The Middle Class and Distinction
- Lifestyle and Class
- Chapter 7: Convenience and Care
- Commodification: Production and Consumption
- Convenience or Care: Advertising the Antinomy
- Convenience and Care in the Magazines
- Domestic Divisions of Labour
- Intensification, Commodification and Domestic Life
- Chapter 8: The Reconstruction of Taste
- Thematic Trends in Representation
- Trends and Official Statistics
- Increased Variety and Diminishing Contrasts?
- Antinomies and the Structural Anxieties of Late Modernity
- Conclusion: Practice and Representation
- Chapter 9: Theories of Consumption and the Case of Food
- The Specialness of Food
- Food Trends and Tendencies in Consumption: Undistinguished Difference?
- Food and Theories of Consumption
- Variety and Commodification
- Towards a Sociological Analysis of Consumption
- In Conclusion
© Alan Warde 1997
This edition first published 1997
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Much of the empirical data collection and analysis was conducted in 1991–2 at the University of Manchester, which awarded me a Hallsworth Fellowship for which I am extremely grateful. During that year I was fortunate to be associated with an inter-disciplinary group exploring food choice. This permitted interesting discussions with Mike Burton, David Morgan, Sue Scott, Mark Tomlinson and Trevor Young. I am particularly indebted to Mark, who was responsible for much of the computation and advice on the interpretation of data about household food expenditure.
That data, from the Family Expenditure Survey, was made available by the Department of Employment through the Economic and Social Research Council's Data Archive and has been used by permission of the Controller of HM Stationery Office. Neither the Department of Employment nor the ESRC Data Archive bears any responsibility for the analysis or interpretation of the data reported here.
Keith Soothill and Dan Shapiro gave advice and help in organizing household surveys in the North-West. I am also very grateful to the teachers, lecturers and students in schools and colleges who gave up their precious time to administer the questionnaires. Special thanks are due to Kevin Hetherington who worked on data preparation, analysis and presentation of the survey results.
I very gratefully acknowledge extensive help given in the coding of recipes and food advertisements by Hilary Arksey.
I would also like to thank numerous people who have shared with me their ideas on the sociologies of food and consumption and especially those who have read and commented on parts of the manuscript: Nick Abercrombie, Hilary Arksey, Jukka Gronow, Deborah Lupton, Celia Lury, Lydia Martens, Stephen Mennell, Mike Savage, Sue Scott, Dale Southerton and John Urry.
More generally I thank my colleagues in the Sociology Department at Lancaster for providing a congenial, stimulating and supportive environment for conducting sociological research. I am also grateful to Lancaster University which granted me study leave and a small grant to work on this project.June 1996
Abbreviations for Popular Magazines[Page vii]
FC Family Circle GH Good Housekeeping IH Ideal Home MW My Weekly PF Peoples Friend WH Woman and Home WO Woman's Own WR Woman's Realm WW Woman's Weekly
Notes[Page 205]Consumption, Taste and Social Change
1. The implications of this for the conceptualization of class are profound, for a class condition becomes very hard to identify separately from the cultural manifestations of economic position. Yet this is precisely what some (e.g. Goldthorpe & Marshall, 1992) see as the task of class analysis. A historical perspective implies exploring precisely the extent to which lifestyle continues to map on to economic condition. Bourdieu pre-empts this inquiry by definition. What I seek to do is to see whether this definitional move has empirical validity.
2. Among proponents of such a position there is limited agreement about when the process became significant or effective and to what degree it has permeated contemporary societies. Some authors would see mass culture as having replaced class cultures earlier in the 20th century.
3. It is therefore initially reassuring that Sobel's (1981) technically sophisticated approach to examining the relationship between lifestyle variation and structural differentiation did uncover substantial evidence of ‘stylistic unity’ even from relatively unpromising data on household expenditure.The New Manners of Food: Trends and Their Sociological Interpretation
1. The conspicuous, and misplaced, exception is reduced seasonality, which is not a feature of socio-demographic structure and probably ought to be considered as counter-evidence to the push towards more variation.
2. The argument about increased diversity of motivation is obscure.
3. The nine causes of the diminishing contrasts identified are: 20th-century sensitivity to undernourishment; 17th-century pressures to self-control; developments in technology, for manufacturing and transporting food; printing; changes in social power ratios leading to democratization; mobilization of concern for health; the incorporation of peasant cuisine into the bourgeois repertoire; extension of the catering trade in the 20th century; and fashion and inverted snobbery. The causes of the four indicators of increased variation are: the collapse of a rigid style hierarchy; mass circulation of magazines dealing with domestic cookery; the reduced distance between domestic and commercial cookery; and greater diversity of motivation among those involved in food preparation Mennell, (1985: 322–31).
4. My translation of ‘Or la situation moderne se caracterise de plus en plus par les manifestations de l'individualisme, de plus en plus par l'autonomie et l'anomie, et de moins en moins par l'hétéronomie (l'imposition au sujet de règles extérieures)….’
5. My translation of ‘“Comment choisir?” devient une question obsédante, envahissante, parfois insurmontable.’
6. Featherstone's heroic consumer, who exhibits no stylistic unity, would be excluded on the basis of this definition.
7. Bell appears to have changed his mind by the time he wrote The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976).
8. The appropriate terminology for referring to middle-class strata is much disputed in contemporary sociology. One of the problems arises because of empirical uncertainty about the [Page 206]degree of social homogeneity characterizing people in non-manual occupations. On the one hand, groups of people in non-manual occupations are sufficiently differentiated to make it seem inappropriate to talk of the middle class, since such a term implies a degree of unity. On the other hand, the differences between groups are not sufficiently clear, systematic and pronounced to permit their identification as separate classes. In the light of this genuine quandary, I adopt the convention of using the term ‘fractions of the middle-class’, which refers to putatively emergent systematic divisions among non-manual workers. Such fractions are identified in the text as amalgamations of different occupational groups (usually of the socioeconomic groups used in British official statistics), these being the most informative type of empirical indicator of class position available in the statistical sources that I was examining. Hence I refer often to the middle class, but without seeking to imply that its members necessarily share the same economic or cultural resources.Measuring Change in Taste
1. The data was made available by the Department of Employment through the Economic and Social Research Council's Data Archive and has been used by permission of the Controller of H.M. Stationery Office.Novelty and Tradition
1. The first function explained 64 per cent of variance, the second 24 per cent.
2. This can be deduced from the relative size of the groups' means on the first canonical function, the difference between that of the youngest group in 1968 and the rest being larger than for any other model that was constructed.[Page 207]Table 4.i Differences by age in food expenditure by women in single person households, 1968 and 1988
3. This statistical effect was much less pronounced, but still significant, among men in 1968; but the youngest men are primarily distinguished by eating out and potato products, and by their aversion to the mature diet.
4. Norman (1991) identified a generation of women who were influenced by the cookery books of Elizabeth David.
5. The distinctiveness of people over 60 arises partly because they take few meals at work.Health and Indulgence
1. In the UK, state food policies created between 1930 and 1950 had encouraged expanded consumption of meat protein, dairy products and sugars which, while serving to provide cheap sources of concentrated energy and thus promoting growth in young people, had unforeseen detrimental long-term consequences for mature adults. Substantially increased proportions of food taken from sugar, hard fats and meat resulted in a diet ‘whose composition was unlike that ever eaten before, at any time in history, anywhere in the world’ (Cannon, 1993: 5). Since the 1960s, reports from various government agencies in North America and northern Europe, and medical reports from the UK and USA, as well as from the World Health Organization, have identified a causal link between dietary trends and the spread of new diseases and causes of death. But the UK government remained reluctant to introduce new policies or to issue dietary guidelines which might encourage altered eating habits.
2. Although it was not an initial reason for choosing 1967–8 as the baseline date for my study, it is fortuitous that this also allows some investigation of the effects of health messages, since 1969 saw the launch of the first government campaign directed towards more healthy eating.
3. More flexible weight-loss diets presumably carry some protection against failure and make the eating behaviour of the person dieting appear less exceptional to others than would have the strict versions proposed in the 1960s and 1970s.
4. See for example Synott, 1993; Shilling, 1993; Featherstone et al., 1991; Scott & Morgan, 1993.Economy and Extravagance
1. There are, of course, other possible interpretations of nouvelle cuisine. Fischler (1980: 946) sees its simplicity as a response to scares about food. Wood (1991, 1994: 14) considers it as primarily a social purity movement in which individualist petit bourgeois producers collude with young, newly rich professional customers to construct a mythology of its healthfulness and its aesthetic superiority. Its promoters understand the cuisine of one such as Michel Guérard as ‘a revolutionary method… for producing exquisite food for those people like himself, who passionately loved food but wanted to remain slim and healthy’ (in Guérard, 1978: 9).
2. The Club's journal, which became the annual Good Food Guide published now by the Consumers' Association, was designed to locate, and thus support, better restaurants; to aid the spread of good taste; and to indicate a demand for fine food which was infrequently met by the British catering industry. The Good Food Guide has always exhorted its readers to complain to restaurateurs when meals are of an inadequate standard.
3. Though, once again, it might be pertinent that there is no possibility of gain for the magazines from the advertising of eating out, which may be one reason for its virtual absence.
4. In general, this parallels Heath et al.'s (1985) conclusions on the basis of studies of voting: that the working class itself has not changed much since the 1960s, except that it has decreased in size.
5. All the relationships mentioned in the following paragraphs were significant at a level of 0.05 or better using Kendall's tauB statistic.[Page 208]
6. This may be cause or effect of the magazines' sources of advertising revenue, for they carry very few ads for alcohol or public catering services.Convenience and Care
1. Woman's Weekly, 19 Nov. 1991.
2. It is possible to read the Stork ad differently, for it does display a certain humour and it might have been read as giving reassurance about the impression that the short-cut route to pastry might offer. Indeed, why should the manufactured frozen pastry be in any way inferior to a home-made alternative? It could be an anxiety-reducing device (cf. Bauman, 1988). But one suspects that most would read it otherwise.
3. The main exception was My Weekly, which offered a recipe for duck instead. Good Housekeeping offered recipes for duckling and goose in addition to one for turkey.
4. Much of the material in this section is drawn from two papers written with Kevin Hetherington: see Warde and Hetherington, 1993, 1994.
5. Some 45 tasks or services were investigated, ranging from childcare to gardening, ironing to car maintenance.
6. The index of unconventionally was constructed as follows. In each household where a woman had last done painting, washing the car, cutting the grass or wallpapering, one point was added for each task. If a man did tidying up, hoovering, cleaning the lavatory, cooking the family meal, washing clothes or the main shopping one point was added for each. The maximum possible score was thus 10. These tasks were chosen as ones done by a person of the ‘wrong’ gender with some degree of regularity (in practice at a proportion of about 5:1) in the population sampled.
7. The level of men's involvement in food preparation is greater than that discovered by Charles and Kerr. In their sample of 200 households, only two men shared cooking equally and a further 23 men cooked regularly, but less often than every other day (1988: 40). This means that the proportion of households which would have a man cooking on any specified day would be about 5 per cent.The Reconstruction of Taste
1. Moreover, 70 per cent said they collected recipes and 62 per cent said they read recipes for pleasure. McKie and Wood (1992: 16) argue that recipes have a moral tone. I don't agree: I think they are technical, with slight overtones of style-policing; I do agree with their endorsement of Barthes's observation that ‘recipes set standards, standards which it is often impossible for the everyday cook to achieve’.
2. As Burnett (1989: 314) observes, no comparable data on the daily menus of a large sample of British households has been collected since Warren (1958).
3. Gregson and Lowe (1994) chart the re-emergence of domestic service in the 1980s. This did not entail demand for cooks, nor were many of the job advertisements examined for housekeepers. This is some indication that there are other acceptable alternative domestic or commercial means to manage any problems of food provisioning faced by dual-career households.
4. This criticism suggests the need to concentrate on how people learn and amend their tastes.
5. Ironically, the antinomy with which Bauman is primarily concerned, the ambivalence of modernity, the difficulties of managing the tension between personal adventure and social rootedness, is the one least likely to cause guilt.[Page 209]Theories of Consumption and the Case of Food
1. This gives rise to what Simmel (1968: 44) described as ‘the typically problematic situation of modern man… his sense of being surrounded by an innumerable number of cultural elements which are neither meaningless to him nor, in the final analysis, meaningful. In their mass they depress him, since he is not capable of assimilating them all, nor can he simply reject them, since after all, they do belong potentially within the sphere of his cultural development.’
Appendix: Technical Details about Methodology[Page 210]MagazinesThe Sample
The study involved detailed examination of a sample of women's magazines in each of two twelve-month periods in 1967–8 and 1991–2. The five most widely circulated women's weekly magazines and the five most widely read monthly magazines were consulted. The measure of ‘most widely read’ was the JICNARS National Readership Survey. The second tranche of data was collected before the publication of the relevant JICNARS survey so the magazines were selected on the basis of the circulation figures of the period July 1990–June 1991. The circulation figures are listed in Table A.1. Thus 80 issues were examined in depth, those current on the 15th day of the month, in November of 1967 and 1991, and in February, May and August of 1968 and 1992.Table A.1 Size of circulation and readership of popular magazines used for recipe sample, 1967 and 1991
Age and class differentiation of the readerships are shown in Table A.2. In each issue all articles and columns relating to food were examined. The number of recipes included, the amount of space devoted to food articles and to food advertisements were calculated (see Table A.3).Table A.2 Readership profiles of magazines, by age and social grade, included in the sample, 1968 and 1991Table A.3 Number of recipes, number of pages and proportion of space devoted to articles about food and advertisements for food, 1967 and 1991 (pages and percentages)
In addition a systematic sample of recipes was drawn. In 1967–8, every eighth recipe in the monthly magazines was examined, starting with the first recipe in the bestselling magazine and continuing through to the end of the fifth monthly magazine. For the weekly magazines, every fourth recipe was analysed. In the 1991–2 tranche, every fourth recipe in the weeklies was coded and every tenth one in the monthlies. This adjustment was necessary because there were proportionately slightly more recipes in the monthlies at the later date. This produced 114 recipes in the earlier year, 124 in the later period.Content Analysis of the Recipes
A detailed examination of the magazines of November 1991, including adverts and pictures, produced a pilot coding frame for recipes, which were then coded. The attempt to apply the same frame to magazines from November 1967 indicated some problems of comparison. A substantially [Page 211]revised coding scheme was then created and applied to the systematic sample of recipes. Fifty-five categories were deployed. For each feature appearing in a selected recipe, the coding sheet would be marked. Some of the coding was simple: for instance where it was noted how many servings a dish would provide. For other features, it was the words used by the journalist in setting up and describing a sample recipe that were recorded. Text considered relevant included the instructions about preparation of the individual recipe, the preamble to that recipe, and where appropriate the preamble to a set of recipes to which the selected recipe belonged. For example, if the article was entitled ‘Quick meals’, or if the discussion at the beginning of the article said ‘these are quick recipes to prepare’, then every sampled recipe in the article would be marked as ‘quick’. Thus recipes were examined in the context of the article in which they appeared. Synonyms for terms like ‘quick’ were, necessarily, also coded, though this of course created some danger of inaccurate recording. This, along with a comparatively small sample size, should be borne in mind when evaluating the results of the analysis.
[Page 212]There is a certain spurious accuracy in the results of most content analysis. Precision is compromised by sorting by hand, by employing more than one coder, by need for judgment when deciding what is to count as a synonym, and so forth. At the analysis stage, some categories were felt to be of dubious reliability: in particular, inter-coder reliability was poor with respect to the categories intended to indicate style and they have not been used in the analysis in the text. The categories used for analysis are listed in Table A.4 and the frequency with which each occurred is given.
Table A.4 Coding categories for recipes: frequency of reference to attributes of dishes in 1967–8 and 1991–2 (percentages) 1968 1992 TRADITION 1. Traditional: explicit 1 3 2. Traditional: implicit 4 4 3. Authentic and traditional (old-fashioned) 5 3 4. Imaginative/creative and traditional 1 8 5. Explicitly traditional, but not UK 3 10 ETHNIC ORIGIN SPECIFIED 7. Country/region: explicit 17 22 8. Country/region: implicit 9 5 NOVELTY 14. Novel: explicit (foreign, fashionable, newly created, exotic) 17 12 15. Novel: implicit 22 5 16. Artistic (nouvelle cuisine, decorated celebration cakes) 4 5 HEALTHY 20. Explicit (healthy, nutritious, balanced, etc.) 4 16 21. Implicitly healthy 1 4 22. Fat, fibre or carbohydrate content stated - 15 23. Slimming: explicit 5 2 24. Calories estimated (number) - 54 26. Vegetarian: explicit 1 6 27. Vegetarian: implicit (by ingredients) - 6 INDULGENT 28. Explicit (spoiling self, naughty, breaking rules) 2 7 29. Implicit (tempting, etc.) 6 10 CONVENIENT 30. Convenience: explicit 6 3 31. Convenience: implicit - 6 32. Quick 14 15 33. Easy 11 22 34. Preparation time given (minutes) 8 44 36. Unconscious (inc. storage & freezing) 6 30 37. Time-saving technology (microwave, pressure cooker, etc.) 4 5 HOME-MADE 40. Family food: explicit (home-made, Mother's cooking) 20 8 41. Nostalgic 4 2 42. Emotion supporting (comforting) 3 - 43. Extensive time invested 5 - 47. Creative (using high skill) 4 3 48. Didactic (pictures, step-by-step instructions, information about ingredients) 19 62 ECONOMY 50. Cost per head (£s) 14 23 51. Economical: explicit 15 12 52. Economical: implicit 1 2 53. Expensive/extravagant: explicit 8 1 54. Expensive/extravagant: implicit 2 - FUNCTIONAL 55. Functional/useful (goodness, satisfying, filling, everyone/family/children like it) 12 15 56. Functional/sensual (tasty, appetizing, delicious) 46 65 58. Ingredients (quality explicitly mentioned) 7 10 STYLE 63. Advice on accompaniments (substantial foods, like vegetables dishes) 14 26 68. Seasonal: explicit (spring, winter, etc.) 8 6 MEALS AND OCCASIONS 70. Special occasion 27 31 71. Whole meal described (i.e. all courses) 8 15 74. Accompanying alcohol recommended 11 12
For analytic purposes the categories were often collapsed to give measures of the frequency of appeal to more general concepts. Thus, the eight principles of recommendation were synthetic concepts, amalgamating subsidiary elements. The scores for the more general synthetic categories are presented in Table A.5, the frequency being given for each annual sample, for weekly and monthly magazines separately. The frequency with which different descriptive aspects occurred (like ethnic attribution, number of servings, etc.) has been referred to in the text, where appropriate.Table A.5 References in recipes to aggregated attributes of dishes in 1967–8 and 1991–2, in samples of weekly and monthly magazines (percentages)[Page 213]The Family Expenditure Survey and Discriminant AnalysisThe Family Expenditure Survey (FES)
The FES was collected in both 1968 and 1988 for the Department of Employment by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. It contains a multitude of data on household expenditure which is gathered from a diary in which all respondents record their expenditure for two weeks. This includes spending on housing, cars, clothing, etc. The derived database used in this study for 1988 contained only one week's expenditure, and for households rather than the individuals therein.
The data on food expenditure is broken down into food categories: different types of meat, milk products, etc. There were 65 food and 7 alcohol categories in 1968, 49 food and 9 alcohol categories in 1988.
A main advantage of the FES is that it contains substantial amounts of socio-demographic information on income, social class, region and so forth.
[Page 214][Page 215][Page 216]In 1968 a sample of 7,184 households was achieved from an approach to 10,752 addresses chosen by a three-stage stratified rotating design in which the primary sampling units are the administrative areas of Great Britain and the local authority areas of Northern Ireland. The same design was used in 1988, when 7,265 households were involved after approaching 12,000. All individuals within the household keep a diary of expenditure for two weeks. A household is defined generally as a person or group of people living at the same address ‘having meals prepared together and with common housekeeping’ (FES, 1968) and only private households are involved.
The FES has some limitations for the analysis to which it was subjected. First, because of infrequency of purchase of certain items, a zero expenditure may be recorded by a respondent even though there is a positive average household expenditure on such products. Items like cooking oil or flour might fall into this category; milk and bread are unlikely to. Second, the food categories are broad, including a wide range of items with different functions and/or symbolic significance, The category ‘dry cereals’ includes muesli, semolina, spaghetti and blancmange powder. The category ‘cheese’ includes Cheddar and Roquefort. Third, if a considerable amount of money is spent on, say, beef, it will not be possible to determine whether this signifies the purchase of expensive cuts or large quantities. Fourth, personal consumption of food items is not separable in this data set. Although in principle access is available to individual expenditure on food, in practice most households have one or two members who are responsible for shopping, such that individual preferences, and personal consumption, are not directly deducible (except in the case of single person households). Given these limitations, however, it can be assumed that group differences in behaviour tend to be underestimated; social groups are probably more distinct in their food consumption than these data suggest.Discriminant Analysis
Discriminant analysis is a multivariate technique which can be used to create a system of equations (similar in some respects to regression equations) which are used to discriminate between different groups of cases within the sample. The groups have usually already been ascertained, as was the case here. The method can also be used to see which variables serve to discriminate most efficiently between the groups.
Two types of discriminant function were examined, Fisher's linear discriminant functions and canonical discriminant functions (see Norusis, 1986: B8–9 for details). The same classification results occur whichever system of equations is used. In addition, stepwise methods were used to reduce the number of variables in the analysis to allow easier interpretation.
There are many criteria available to distinguish between good and bad discriminatory variables and the method used was based on minimizing Wilks's Lambda (see Norusis, 1986: B17–21). One problem with stepwise [Page 217]methods is that they do not necessarily produce optimal results because they do not attempt to test every possible combination of variables.
As a final test of a discriminant equation's suitability for distinguishing between the groups, a table is produced of the percentages of correctly specified cases and the percentages of cases falling into the wrong categories. If there are patterns of expenditure associated with social groups then we should expect the number of correctly classified cases to be greater than would be expected by chance. So for a four-class system we would expect more than 25 per cent of cases to be correctly classified by the functions if the analysis is working.
The best summary expression of the results of a discriminant analysis is to show how effectively a model predicts the group to which an individual household belongs on the basis of its food purchasing pattern. The summary statistic shows the level to which the variables (food items) allocate households to the class group.
One problem concerns the presentation of the results from a discriminant analysis. The space required to produce detailed results is prohibitive. This particularly affects the linear discriminant and canonical discriminant functions, which register a value for every food item included in the analysis.Greater Manchester Survey, 1990
Questionnaires were completed in October and November 1990 in the Greater Manchester region. The sample is skewed towards a particular population as a consequence of instructing students following A-level courses, including sociology, to administer the schedule to one of their parents. Instructions to the interviewers were designed to obtain roughly even numbers of male and female respondents: it was asked that those with surnames A-H should where possible interview a female adult in their household (usually their mother) and the remainder a male adult household member. If this was not possible they should interview someone else; and if an interview was refused they should record the fact and again interview another person. Of the final effective sample, 62 per cent of respondents were female. Twelve per cent of households contained no resident male adult, so interviewers actually interviewed a male in 43 per cent of the households where that was possible. There were a small number of refusals, 25 in all, of which 26 per cent were mothers, 57 per cent fathers, 17 per cent ‘others’.
Of the 334 questionnaires returned, 11 were unusable due to being poorly administered and were removed from the analysis. Thus 323 households were considered. The respondents, because they were almost all parents of an A-level student, clustered between the ages of 36 and 55 (see Table A.6).
Table A.6 Age of respondents n % (of valid responses) 30 or less 2 1 31–35 12 4 36–40 76 25 41–45 127 41 46–50 55 18 51–55 26 8 56–60 9 3 60+ 3 1 unrecorded 13 – Total 323 101
People at the life-cycle stage of having teenage children are normally relatively affluent, because parents are still of working age, and in those [Page 218]households with two adults present both are likely to be engaged in employment. The exception is households headed by lone parents, a group susceptible to poverty. The marital status of respondents is shown in Table A.7. Eighty-six per cent of households contained a couple living as married.
Table A.7 Gender and marital status of respondents % n Lone male adult 2 6 Male married or living as married 36 116 Lone female adult 12 39 Female married or living as married 50 162 Total 100 323
Household size was also large in our sample, due again to the life-cycle stage of our respondents. Table A.8 indicates that about half our sample of households contained four people, counting children.
Table A.8 Household size (including all children) Number of persons in household n % 2 9 3 3 73 23 4 144 45 5 69 21 6 19 6 7 8 3 8 1 0 Total 323 101
In all, 46 per cent of households contained a child 15 years of age or less. Only 6 per cent contained a child under 5 years old.
[Page 219]The sample was an affluent one, as shown by measures of material wellbeing, housing type, car ownership, possession of consumer durables, etc. For instance, 86 per cent lived in owner-occupied property and 47 per cent of households had regular use of two cars. The affluence of the sample reflects its occupational and class characteristics. The occupational characteristics of the respondents and their partners (where applicable) is given in Table A.9. There were considerably greater proportions of household members in managerial and professional occupations than is typical of the British workforce as a whole. In effect 41 per cent of our households contained a male member of the salariat.Table A.9 Occupational characteristics of respondents and their partners if they acknowledge being in employment, excluding inadequately specified
Men's and women's occupational positions were combined in terms of standard sociological classifications. We derived classifications for men separately, for women separately and for households.
Participation of women in the labour market is one of the key variables in standards of living, domestic divisions of labour, etc. Of all principal adult women in the sample 43 per cent were in full-time paid employment, 38 per cent in part-time paid work and a mere 14 per cent were engaged full-time in housework.
Two other features of the sample deserve notice. First, the sample lived in Greater Manchester and its environs, including Bury, Bolton, Blackburn, Salford and Stockport. Second, the households contained many more female than male members: there were 642 women over the age of 16 but only 450 men over 16. This presumably is the result both of young women being more likely to take A-level sociology, hence more of the interviewers (who are co-residents) are female, and of there being more female than male lone parents.
The sample contained neither one-person households nor couples living alone without any co-resident children. The proportion of households in the UK of the types in our sample is about 15 per cent. Hence our sample, on aggregate, contains households that are larger, include more couples, are of higher socio-economic status and are commensurately richer. It is worth pointing out that the sample is comparable with many other earlier sociological investigations, where households containing children and with heads [Page 220]aged between 20 and 65 have been very popular as samples for researching the family, stratification, etc.
Finally, the questionnaires were administered by students, not by a professional survey research organization. The research was partly designed to provide practical ways for students to learn about survey methods. It was not possible to check systematically for interviewer reliability. I was convinced, though, that interviews were undertaken in a responsible and committed fashion by students who were well briefed and conversant with technical aspects of interviewing. There are, in addition, some positive advantages in having household members as the interviewers, since they must be acknowledged experts regarding the content of the replies.
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