Deprivation, social class and social mobility at Big Four and non-Big Four firms

Catriona Paisey*, Nick Paisey, Heather Tarbert, Betty (H.T.) Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
298 Downloads (Pure)


Using the work of Bourdieu and Savage, this paper investigates social class and social mobility among chartered accountants who qualified with The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland in 2009. We find that these accountants tend to come from privileged backgrounds and that those who qualified with Big Four firms possess more economic, social and cultural capital than those who qualify with other firms. Our study provides fresh insights into how elements of social class interact with social background. In contrast with the prevailing view that there is limited social mobility in the accountancy profession, we find some evidence of social mobility, suggesting that current debates are based on contestable assumptions. We also find that chartered accountants from more deprived backgrounds as indicated by childhood postcode often have a father who has a professional or managerial occupation, so are not deprived on all measures. Where those from more deprived backgrounds accessed chartered accountancy careers, this was at the expense of people whose parents held lower rather than higher professional or managerial jobs. This suggests that the most advantaged maintain access to chartered accountancy but those from more middling professional homes are displaced when those from more deprived backgrounds gain access.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-109
Number of pages49
JournalAccounting and Business Research
Issue number1
Early online date23 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Social mobility
  • Social class
  • Big 4
  • Accountancy profession


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