The Celebrity Boat Race – Screamingly Upper Middle Class

The over-representation of the upper middle classes in charity sporting events

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I was unfortunate enough to catch an A BBC Breakfast item on the celebrity boat race for Sports Relief on Wednesday.

This featured Louis Minchin interviewing some other celebrities and James Cracknell about the upcoming charity boat race in which four teams from BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky will be competing to raise money for mental health charities.

An mostly upper middle class celebrity love-in…

Now I know rowing is traditionally associated with independent schools, as are media celebrities, and I detected a distinct upper middle class twang going around the self-congratulatory interviews. This made me wonder what the class background of the boat race celebs was.

Given that 6-7% of the population is independently schooled, I did a quick trawl to figure out how over-represented (if at all) the upper middle classes are in this event.

A note on the methods

I simply looked up the celebs on Wikipedia, and about half had information about their schooling, in one case (Rachel Parris) the school had information on her.

NB there are some data gaps below, and I stopped at 50% as I’ve only got so many hours in the day….

Team BBC – at least 33% Independently schooled, 4* over-represented compared to the national average.

  • Louise Minchin –  privately not educated at St Mary’s School, Ascot
  • Steve Backshall – unknown, but brought up in a smallholding in Bagshot, Surrey which suggests a reasonably wealthy background
  • Maya Jama – educated at Cotham school (not independent)
  • Michael Stevenson – unknown
  • Jay Blades – probably not privately educated, as from Hackney
  • Rachel Parris – independently educated at Loughborough selective school

Team ITV – probably 50% privately educated, or about 8* over-represented

  • Matt Evers – don’t know (N/B American)  
  • Colson Smith – don’t know
  • Isabel Hodgins – independently educated at the Sylvia Young Theatre School
  • Dr Ranj Singh – don’t know
  • Andrea Mclean – probably independently educated, brought up in Trinidad and Tobago
  • Romilly Weeks  – she’s a Royal Correspondent and lives in London, so almost certainly independently educated.

Analysis – actually not bad social class representation, for the media.

I’d had enough of digging after 12 celebs, so I’m basing this on a 50% sample.

  • Approximately 45% of the celebs are independently educated, which means the independently schooled are about 7* over-represented compared to what they should be.
  • Having said that, the independently schooled make up more than 60% of media professionals so this boat race line up is actually MORE representative of the working classes than might be expected.
  • Based on my sample ALL the white women have been independently educated. Minority women and men are more likely to (probably) be from a working class background).

I’ve rounded up as the two British Olympic rowers are also independently schooled: James Cracknell and Helen Glover (in fairness on a sports scholarship).

Jame Cracknell – An upper middle class jaw jaw?

Over to you for some further research

NB, over to you if you want to do some further research, I’ve included the C4 and Sky teams below. I’d be surprised if they didn’t have similar percentages.

Let me know in the comments if these findings are generalisable!

Team Channel 4

  • Jamie Laing
  • Cathy Newman
  • Chelsee Healey
  • Amanda Byram
  • Tom Read Wilson
  • Ed Jackson

Team Sky

  • Dermot Murnaghan
  • Natalie Pinkham
  • Hayley McQueen
  • Lloyd Griffith
  • Nazaneen Ghaffar
  • Carl Froch
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