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Changing elites: how social and institutional change has altered the processes of elite formation over time?

Project description

A closer look at the 'engines' of inequality

In many countries, elite composition has changed over the years. As the elites are often considered driving forces behind inequality, how have these changes influenced the production of inequalities? What role have the major social, political and economic upheavals played over the last two centuries? These questions and more will be tackled by the EU-funded CHANGINGELITES project. It will create a catalogue of the elite to combine with information on schools, club memberships, parental wealth, economic capital and family structure. The project will research 120 000 people born since 1800. Researchers will also conduct 100 interviews with members of the elite class. The findings will shed light on how the social composition of elites has changed in the course of time and how inequalities are produced.


Elites reveal the nature of inequality, allowing us to see the underlying structure of society. But, elites can also be the engines of inequality, driving forward changes ensuring the accumulation of power. So, when the people occupying elite positions change it says something about how the production of inequalities may have changed too. Most would agree (despite the paucity of data) that elites are different today than they were; but, what is contested is whether such changes signal a radical restructuring of the processes of elite formation. Two questions remain unresolved: 1) how has the composition of elites changed over time? and 2) did the major social, political, and economic upheavals of the last 200 years reconfigure elites through altering processes of elite formation? It has been difficult to answer these questions because of limited longitudinal data on elites. CHANGINGELITES will address these questions by creating a catalogue of the elite that is without equal in its empirical and temporal scope. This data set will combine information on education (schools and universities), club membership, parental wealth, economic capital, and family structure for around 120,000 people born since 1800. Alongside this data, we will also conduct 100 interviews with elites born in different periods, illuminating the varied trajectories that underpin this huge historical database. CHANGINGELITES will both shed light on the social composition of elites over time and seek to explain the changes and continuities within elites by exploring how institutional and policy shifts constrain and enable processes of elite reproduction. This ambitious, interdisciplinary study will radically alter our understanding of elite reproduction but, more than this, it will speak to a contradiction seen in many countries recently between the opening up of elite institutions and the massive accumulation of wealth, and in so doing will seek new ways to understand how inequalities are produced.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 459 462,75
Wellington square university offices
OX1 2JD Oxford
United Kingdom

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South East (England) Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Oxfordshire
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (2)