What musical tastes tell us about social class — ScienceDaily

Do you like opera? Want hip hop? It turns out your musical likes and dislikes can say 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 recently published in the Canadian Journal of Sociology.

“The breadth of likes is not related to class. But class filters out specific likes and dislikes,” said Gerry Veenstra, study author and professor in UBC’s Department of Sociology.

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

Poorer, less educated people tended to like country, disco, easy listening, old classics, heavy metal, and rap. Meanwhile, their wealthier and better educated counterparts preferred genres such as classical, blues, jazz, opera, choir, pop, reggae, rock, world, and musical theatre.

The research touches on a hotly debated topic in cultural sociology: whether a class comes with specific cultural tastes, or whether “elites” are defined by a wide range of preferences that set them apart.

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, immigration 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 least educated people in the study were more than eight times more likely to dislike classical music compared to the most educated respondents. Meanwhile, lowbrow genres such as country, easy listening, and old classics were disliked by upper-class listeners.

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Material provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.