7. Sport and Social Inequalities: Socio-Cultural Background

Bourdieu (1991) believes that the way people spend their free time, and within that how much sport they do, largely depends on their positions within the structure of society. Upper class and the working class have radically different tastes, and it is not only explained by the different financial resources. The way people spend their free time is largely determined by the customs of their respective social class. In Bourdieu’s opinion people’s attitude to leisure time and sport is primarily influenced by three factors: the amount of free time available to them (which is a form of transformed social capital, as a higher amount of social capital yields a higher amount of free time), the available financial resources, and the cultural capital. Depending on the share of each social class in these resources, the ways the members of the classes spend their free time changes. Furthermore, the customs common in a social class are signs of the social class itself, reinforcing the identity of the respective class. For example, exclusive activities such as sailing, golf are characteristic of the upper classes, whereas team sports and games like basketball and handball are more popular with the middle classes. Wrestling and box are most popular with the working class. Naturally, there are exceptions, and it is not possible to claim that this or that activity takes place only this or that particular social class.

A nationwide survey suggests that sport for groups that are in the process of sinking lower in society is primarily linked to the passive ways of spending their free time. The reason for the not wealthy people is the lack of financial resources, and for the elderly poor health, and for those living in the provinces the lack of facilities and programmes (Dóczi 2014).

7.1. Cultural Capital and Financial Resources

To survey the specific social, economic and cultural factors behind an inactive way of life is important, as in Hungary a mere one third of young people are involved in some sport and, according to Eurobarometer (2018), 53% of the population never does any sport. Unequal chances in access to sport among young people have been detected in terms of the cultural capital and financial resources in the past 12 years. A higher qualification and a better financial background have a positive effect in one’s becoming a sportsperson. One’s status as a student also has a similar effect. The members of the middle- and upper classes have the best access to sport, but in 2012, as a result of the adverse effect of the crisis, the number of people also dropped among the middle- and upper classes (Perényi 2011; 2013).

The findings of our research conducted among students in Hungary and Romania also confirmed our assumption about the interrelation between the frequency of an individual’s doing sport and their social background. The improvement of objective financial situation among students brings about the frequency of their doing sports, but the environment (e. g. peers doing sports), individual attitudes and sports events at the campus may override the differences rooted in social inequalities in terms of doing sports (Kovács, 2013b).

A survey of the sports activities of students revealed that those who are involved in competitive and regular free time sport are usually in the best financial situation, and their parents have the highest qualifications. At the same time, the effects of these classic socio-cultural background variables are often overriden by the direct environment, the peers and friends doing sports, religious and close community. Gender appears to be the primary factor in directing one towards the ranks of competitive sportspeople. Chances are increased by close friends who do sports, an inspiring secondary school teacher or sibling. They offer a role model for college or university students to follow and do sports themselves. A student will more easily do regular leisure-time sport in a religious, close and attentive community, and a sporty environment. These are important factors, in addition to the gender and the native country. Further positive effects on a student include the influence of a partner, best friend(s) who do regular physical exercises. The role of college or university teachers in students’ doing occassional sport is to be noted: a student may embark on at least occassional physical exercise under the influence of a teacher who is a role model to them hallgató (Kovács 2015a; 2015b).

7.2. Inequalities According to the Types of Home Settlements

The findings of the survey titled ”Ifjúság 2000” [Youth 2000] suggest that the type of the home settlement of young people considerably influence their attitude to sports: the greatest differences exist between the capital/county towns and the small towns/villages. Considerably higher numbers of people are involved in sports in the former respective settlement types. Out of the cities, the ones that have a college or university stand out, as they have a large population of active young people. It is also to be noted that the smaller settlements are usually unable to compete with the larger one in terms of sports facilites (Fábri, 2002). In 2010, the opportunities for young people living in cities to pursue some sort of a sport increased by 40%, thanks to the new sports facilities, the events and programmes organized by the local governments. On the other hand, the chances of those living in the capital city decreased by 30%, and the tendency continued up to 2012 (Perényi, 2011; 2013).

Control questions

  1. Describe Bourdieu’s theory of capital and customs in relation to sports!

  2. How does socio-cultural status influence people’s attitude to doing sports?

  3. What are the differences in people’s attitude to sports in the different types of settlements in Hungary?