An Investigation of the Genetic Structure of Social Class

  • P.E.J. Wheatcroft

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The aim of the present survey was to test the hypothesis that genetic differences between the social class groups in Britain exist and can be demonstrated at the population survey level.
It was decided to undertake a survey of a wide range of inherited characteristics of high heritability such as eye colour and PTC tasting with the object of comparing the frequencies of these variables in different social class groups.
The original intention was to use an adult sample of subjects in order to obtain a direct social class grouping. ‘This proved impossible, and it was necessary to substitute a sample of schoolchildren. As a consequence, it was only possible to use parental occupation and type of school attended as indications of the social class of the subjects.
Various methods of determining the survey variables were investigated, and the survey data was handled by use of a computer. The program for this was written as a part of the project.
The survey results showed that the social class groups differed significantly for a number of variables. There were also significant differences between the school types. Several of the characteristics studied showed significant sex differences, and some traits were significantly associated with the regional origins of the subject.
In addition to these significant associations, it was found that many pairs of characteristics were significantly associated. It was also possible to provide basic population frequency data for the traits used.
A limited twin survey provided estimates of the heritability of the traits under study. Such data was not previously available for many of the traits.
The implications of the survey results were discussed with reference to previous studies in the field of human genetic polymorphism.
Date of Award1971
Original languageEnglish


  • genetic
  • structure
  • social
  • class

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