‘Culture is a meritocracy’: Why creative workers’ attitudes may reinforce social inequality

Mark Taylor, Dave O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The attitudes and values of cultural and creative workers are an important element of explaining current academic interest in inequality and culture. To date, quantitative approaches to this element of cultural and creative inequality have been overlooked, particularly in British research. This article investigates the attitudes of those working in creative jobs with a unique dataset: a web survey of creative workers’ attitudes (n = 2487). Using principal components analysis and regression, we have three main findings. First, in contrast to Richard Florida’s thesis on the attitudes and values of ‘the creative class’, our respondents’ attitudes were no more meritocratic than those of the general population. Second, those with the strongest belief in meritocracy in the sector are those in the most privileged positions, specifically those are best rewarded by the sector. Third, our research provides support for existing qualitative research on attitudes in the cultural sector, in which the worst rewarded workers are most aware of structural inequality. We conclude that the 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. These findings also have important implications for current public interest in whether access to creative work is limited to those from privileged backgrounds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-47
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number4
Early online date12 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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