The Great British Class Survey, a collaboration between the BBC and academics from six universities, used economic, social and cultural indicators rather than occupation, wealth and education to define the new classes. Researchers found theestablished model of an upper, middle and working class had fragmented to such a degree that there are now seven categories ranging from the "precariat" to the "elite".
The "traditional working class", described as "not completely deprived" despite scoring low on all forms of capital, then appear. Its members tend to have properties with reasonably high values because they are, on average, aged 66. The category, making up just 14% of the total population, "is fading from contemporary importance", say the academics.
On the next rung is the "established middle class", described as the largest and most gregarious group, scoring highly when it comes to economic, social and cultural capital. Comprising a quarter of the population, it is the largest group, with household income of £47,000 and some "highbrow" tastes.
Professor Mike Savage of the LSE said the researchers had been struck by the existence of a distinctive elite class "whose sheer economic advantage sets it apart from other classes".
Professor Fiona Devine of the University of Manchester said the most interesting aspect of the research was the groups they had identified in the middle: "There's a much more fuzzy area between the traditional working class and traditional middle class. There's the emergent workers and the new affluent workers who are different groups of people who won't necessarily see themselves as working or middle class."
Sitcom guide to the new classes
Elite: General Melchett from Blackadder Goes Fourth. Braying, bellowing, incompetent and utterly contemptuous of the lower orders, Melchett would naturally expect to find himself at the top of the pecking order.
Established middle class: Margot and Jerry Leadbetter from The Good Life. As the establishment pillars of comfortable and conservative 1970s suburban society, the couple existed in pointed contrast to their more free-thinking neighbours Tom and Barbara Good.
Technical middle class: David Brent from The Office. Despite his supposedly rock'n'roll past, Ricky Gervais's fist-gnawingly embarrassing general manager was resolutely middle class.
New affluent workers: Miranda from Miranda. Miranda Hart herself may be established middle class, but the heroine of her eponymous sitcom sits comfortably in a slightly lower category.
Traditional working class: Jim Royle from The Royle Family. Could Ricky Tomlinson's armchair-bound, TV-addicted patriarch be anything other than proudly working class? My arse!
Emergent service workers: Maurice Moss from the IT Crowd. Young, nerdish and living at home with his mum, Moss could fit the emergent service worker class but probably needs a little work to increase his social and cultural capital levels.
Precariat (Precarious - prolatariat): Rab C Nesbitt. Gregor Fisher's much-loved and enduring sitcom creation has assumed the status of folk hero despite his resolutely unglamorous life.