Social Class, Sport, and Physical Activity
Equality, diversity, and inclusion in sport have received considerable interest over the past 30 years. Authors have most commonly focused on issues related to race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Largely missing from this analysis is an emphasis on social class, or the “dimension of the self that is rooted in objective material resources (income, education, and occupational prestige) and corresponding subjective perceptions of rank vis-à-vis others” (Côté, 2011, p. 47). In some area of sport, such as sport management, fewer than two articles per year focus on socioeconomic status or social class (Cunningham, 2023). Though the emphasis on class and classism is more prevalent in other areas, such as sociology of sport, the emphasis on the topic still lags relative to others.
The lack of scholarship in this area is unfortunate for several reasons. Social class has the potential to shape virtually all aspects of people’s lives, including their health, social relationships, educational opportunities, jobs held, and healthcare, among others (Desmond, 2016; Putnam, 2016; Rivera & Tilcsik, 2016). It is little wonder that the United Nations identified ending poverty and reducing inequalities among the sustainable development goals.
Relatedly, social class is increasingly linked with access and opportunities to participate in sport and physical activity (Andersen & Bakken, 2019; Gemar, 2020). Changes in sport funding models, coupled with disparities in disposable income, contribute to this pattern. Finally, even though social class is considered “the forgotten dimension of diversity” (Ingram, 2021) among organizational scholars, social class is associated with the management, marketing, and governance of sport. Indeed, sport organizations’ structures and processes, the way they deliver and market sport, and sport consumers’ ability to attend or even watch sport events are all impacted by social class and class relations (Cunningham, 2023).
Given these patterns, the purpose of this special issue is to explore the link among social class, sport, and physical activity. We seek quantitative, qualitative, and conceptual papers that investigate the ways that wealth, social class background, and power intersect to influence the opportunities people have to consume sport, their chances to be physically active, their experiences as sport consumers, and how they experience work in sport organizations. Authors can also explore the potential relationship between sport and social mobility. Finally, we welcome manuscripts that explore how social class intersects with other identities to affect people’s opportunities and experiences in sport.
List of Topic Areas
Social mobility through sport.
Using sport to create social change for people from poor social class backgrounds.
Using sport to create change for high-poverty communities.
The impact of social class background on opportunities to consume sport.
The impact of social class background on opportunities to be physically active.
The intersection of social class and other identities on people’s experiences in sport and sport organizations.
The perpetuation of class inequalities through sport.
Social class inclusion in sport organizations.
Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available here.
Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see here.
Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”.
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.
Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 01/02/2024
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 01/03/2024
Andersen, P. L., & Bakken, A. (2019). Social class differences in youths’ participation in organized sports: What are the mechanisms? International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 54(8), 921-937.
Côté, S. (2011). How social class shapes thoughts and actions in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 31, 43-71.
Cunningham, G. B. (2023). Diversity and inclusion in sport organizations: A multilevel perspective (5th ed.). Routledge.
Desmond, M. (2016). Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American city. Crown.
Gemar, A. (2020). Sport as culture: Social class, styles of cultural consumption and sports participation in Canada. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 55(2), 186-208.
Ingram, P. (2021). The forgotten dimension of diversity. Harvard Business Review. Accessed at: https://hbr.org/2021/01/the-forgotten-dimension-of-diversity.
Putnam, R. D. (2016). Our kids: The American dream in crisis. Simon and Schuster.
Rivera, L. A., & Tilcsik, A. (2016). Class advantage, commitment penalty: The gendered effect of social class signals in an elite labor market. American Sociological Review, 81(6), 1097-1131.