Turning social class into headline news with the BBC’s Class Calculator

Following the largest ever study of British social class, we worked with the BBC to make the findings understandable and accessible to everyone. Our award-winning, interactive Class Calculator captivated the nation and got people talking everywhere.

A new approach

The Great British Class Survey was a collaboration between BBC Lab UK and prominent sociologists from leading universities. Designed to remodel traditional definitions of social class for the 21st century, it evaluated responses from over 161,000 people.

The Class Calculator was the BBC’s lead story for over a day

Early in the project, the sociologists were still processing the data. We employed their initial findings, formulae and hypotheses to build a prototype to demonstrate how the information could be presented in an entertaining and personalised way. BBC News Online then asked us to develop a fully functioning calculator after the statistical analysis was complete and seven new social class groupings had been defined.

Read about the methodology on the BBC’s website.

Made for sharing

Our aim was to make a serious academic study easy to understand and fun to engage with, tapping into the British public’s fascination with class. By distilling the complex data into a simple but absorbing visualisation, we encouraged people to ask where do I fit? Users were placed in the new class model on a nearest match basis, having asked them to indicate their economic wealth, but also their social connections and cultural interests, which are the defining measures within the new system.

Featured on the BBC’s homepage, our Class Calculator achieved six million views in 24 hours, was the site’s second most viewed page of the year, and the most shared page ever. Around 25% of traffic came from social media, and a third were mobile views. As well as being one of the biggest stories of the year, our Class Calculator won a the data-driven applications category at the Global Editor’s Network Data Journalism Awards.

Take the test: BBC Class Calculator