Bryan Caplan is soliciting class autobiographies. Here's his. Here's mine.
I spent most of my first 18 years in the same terraced house in Leicester; it wasn't quite a 2-up, 2-down as it had a garden. Our neighbours were mostly working class - carpenters, mechanics - but increasingly Ugandan Asians displaced by Idi Amin.
Mum was a secretary; her dad was treasurer of a working man's club. Dad, and his dad, was a lorry driver. However, dad went to prison when I was five - after the contents of his lorry went missing - and mum and dad never lived together after then. I only saw him once a week. After his release, he set up a building firm, and did well. When I was 18, he bought a huge house in the country, though he later went back to prison for VAT fraud.
We weren't poor - though I don't know how much money mum got from dad. We (mum, me and my sister) had a two-week holiday every year, to the Isle of Wight. We never went abroad. The first time I got on a plane was when I worked in the City, and had to fly to Scotland to give presentations to fund managers.
I went to the local junior school, passed the 11+ (the only boy in my school to do so) and got a place at a grammar school. I never wanted to go; it was two bus rides to the other side of town, and I thought it was posh; my mates (quite gently) took the piss out of me.
School wasn't too bad, except that it forced us to play rugby rather than football.
I was quite a lazy schoolboy, but I got a bunch of O levels and, with Leicester's economy suffering in the 1980 recession, choose to stay on to do A levels; mum seemed to welcome the extra child benefit.
By this time, our grammar school had been converted into a 6th form college, as part of comprehensivization. This had the effect of generating greater class divisions than existed in the grammar school. Our 6th form was split between working class kids who liked Kraftwerk and the Human League, and posh ones who still liked prog rock. I have retained a visceral hatred of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
I gave no thought at all to life after school until my history teacher, in front of a whole class, disturbed my reverie by telling me: "Oxford would have you like a shot"
He was right. And I became the first member of my family for 500 generations to go to university. Luckily, I did well in the entrance exam, so had none of the (ill-founded) insecurity that afflicts many working class students.
So, what effect did this class background have on me? It didn't stop me doing well financially after university. But there's a big element of luck here. I was lucky enough to benefit from selective education, lucky to meet great teachers, lucky to go to university when few did and so had a strong signal of ability. And I was lucky that, as I left university, there was big demand for technical-ish skills as the City was expanding.
Had I been a few years younger, I'd not have had this fortune. In this sense, I disagree with Bryan when he says "differences in ability and character are the cause of class differences". I'd stress the role of luck.
My background has held me back in some respects. I've always earnt more money than my mum. And my upbringing did not give me expensive tastes. As a result, I've never felt the need to earn more than I have.
Also, I've never had the imagination to see that I could do jobs that posher people do; I was 21 before I met a graduate who wasn't a teacher. When I was interviewed for my current job, I was asked: "why didn't you become a journalist straight after university?" My instinctive reply was: "the thought never occurred to me." Even now, some jobs - the more mainstream media or politics - are mostly closed to people like me.
Probably the biggest effect, though, of my background is social. I've never felt that l fitted in, always feeling that I owe my place, wherever I've worked, only to my above-average intellect. People only want me for my brain.
Does this make me resentful, as Bryan alleges of the notion of class autobiography?
No. Everyone is scarred by their upbringing. The only question is: how?