Skip to main content

Listen: Sociologist Daniel Laurison '99 Explores Class, Social Mobility

Daniel Laurison '99

WHYY Commonspace: Looking Class and Breaking the Class Ceiling

Growing up in a Marxist household in Seattle, Wash., Assistant Professor of Sociology Daniel Laurison '99 was exposed to class analysis from the moment he could talk. It wasn't until graduate school, however, that he became interested in using the approach to study varying levels of political participation among different social groups.

He recently joined the WHYY podcast Commonspace to tackle such topics as the nebulous concept of the "middle class" and how racial discrimination affects pursuit of the "American Dream." In the episode "Looking Class", he provided commentary on guests' stories about experiences with class and spoke more at length during the episode "Breaking the Class Ceiling."

Laurison, who completed a postdoctorate on class mobility in the United Kingdom, is the co-author of The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged, in which he reveals the pervasiveness of a class barrier in elite occupations. He argues that even when individuals with working-class origins are able to break through the ceiling, they often earn less than their counterparts with more privileged socioeconomic backgrounds in what amounts to a class-origin pay gap.

"When people judge each other in jobs and interviews, they’re often making classed judgments, but they think they’re making judgments about merit or skill or talent," he says. "So that class background continues to matter, even at the point where, somebody’s a lawyer, somebody’s a doctor; class has a sort of a profound and deep effect on how our lives turn out, no matter where we land."

Daniel Laurison '99 on "Looking Class:"

Laurison on "Breaking the Class Ceiling:"

Submissions Welcome

The Communications Office invites all members of the Swarthmore community to share videos, photos, and story ideas for the College's website. Have you seen an alum in the news? Please let us know by writing