What musical taste tells us about social class – sciencedaily


Do you like opera? In the mood for hip hop? Turns out your musical likes and dislikes can tell more about you than you think, according to a UBC study.

Even in 2015, social class continues to influence our cultural attitudes and the way we listen to music, according to the study, which was recently published in the Canadian Journal of Sociology.

“The breadth of likes is not related to class. But class filters into specific likes and dislikes,” said Gerry Veenstra, study author and professor in the sociology department at UBC.

The study involved nearly 1,600 telephone interviews with adults in Vancouver and Toronto, who were asked about their likes and dislikes for 21 musical genres. Veenstra himself has a weakness for easy listening, musical theater, and pop.

Poorer and less educated people tended to like country, disco, easy music, golden oldies, heavy metal, and rap. Meanwhile, their wealthier, better-educated counterparts preferred genres such as classical, blues, jazz, opera, choir, pop, reggae, rock, world, and musical theater.

The research tackles a hotly debated topic in cultural sociology: whether one’s class is accompanied by specific cultural tastes, or whether “elites” are defined by a wide range of preferences that distinguish them.

The study determines that wealth and education do not influence the extent of a person’s musical tastes. However, class and other factors – such as age, gender, immigrant status, and ethnicity – shape our musical tastes in interesting and complex ways.

What people don’t want to listen to also plays a key role in creating class boundaries. “What the upper class people like is hated by the lower class, and vice versa,” Veenstra said.

For example, the less educated people in the study were more than eight times more likely to dislike classical music compared to the more educated respondents. Meanwhile, lowbrow genres such as country, easy listening, and old classics were hated by upper class listeners.

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Materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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