What socioeconomic class do Rockstars and Actors predominantly come from?

So, in another thread someone stated that Rockstars and Actors predominantly come from poor backgrounds. I don’t just think this is false, I think it is counter to reality.

So lets talk about the backgrounds of people we know.

P = Poor
WC = Working Class
MC = Middle-Class
UC = Upper Class

Rock Stars

Trent Reznor - MC
Marilyn Manson - MC
Kurt Cobain - P
Tori Amos - P
John Bon Jovi - WC
Bruce Springsteen - WC
Britney Spears - MC
Eminem - P
Kanye West - MC
Snoop - P
Jewel - P


Vincent Cassel - UC
Brad Pitt - MC
Timothy Hutton - UC
McCauley Culkin - P
Angelina Jolie - UC
Tom Green - MC
Ben Affleck - UC
Matt Damon - UC
Shia LeBeouf - UC
Lindsay Lohan - MC
Cameron Diaz - UC
Basically anyone who got their start with Disney has to be MC or higher because they need a parent who can manage their early career.

In my experience around musicians and actors is that a lot of the time they are able to start their careers by having parents who can finance their basic necessities in the beginning. Acting lessons, music lessons, voice lessons, dance lessons, all of these things are expensive, and rarely does the raw talent of the poor shine through enough that they win. I think it’s more common for actors to be Upper Class than musicians though.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ father was a billionaire. I doubt any other actor/actress grew up with a family with that much money.

How do you define these terms?

Wouldn’t rock stars and actors coming from the poorer classes become less and less true as more and more actors’ and rockers’ kids enter the business? There seems to be millions of them around, far more than in the old days.

Well it isn’t scientific.

Poor are generally those who have very little money, grew up in a trailer or lived on the streets.

Working Class are those who got what they needed but still had to scrape by.

Middle-Class are those who have extra discretionary income and more social mobility so that their parents can help manage their kids careers or help them pay for the apartment while the kid pursues the dream of being a rock star.

Upper-Class are rich people, either monetarily or just very well connected.


Balthazar Getty.
Of previous generation, Dina Merrill.

Rockstar, by definition, is a successful professional musician. However, “actor” is a very broad term. There are hundreds of thousands of actors you’ve never heard of playing in theaters all over the country, most of whom don’t make much money.

Lets go with famous ones.

Aren’t you worried that skews your results?

Since you seem to be counting hip-hop stars / rappers as “rock stars”, it should be noted virtually every rich rapper these days started out poor. Kanye is a rare exception with his middle-class background.

Yes, I thought of that.

Not many people want to actually participate though? There are a few examples.

Don’t forget that Will Smith started as a rapper, albeit not a gangsta rapper. IIRC his family was solid middle class. He’s done fairly well in films and television, too.

I’ll admit (since I was the one who made the original comment) that when actors are concerned, there’s a fair bit of “son of…” or “niece of…” going on, if you confine actors to “Hollywood stars”.

But, as Fish remarks, “actors” aren’t confined to Hollywood stars, but include everything from Frank Sinatra to the guy who ended up first grip or waiting tables after he left everything to try his luck in Hollywood. Considering only the ones who made it does skew the results.

Same goes for musicians - you’ll certainly find examples of artists coming from wealthy backgrounds, but on the whole, pro guitarists or mike belters don’t come from the middle or upper classes (depending on the genre I suppose - I guess there are more middle class first violins than middle class punk drummers).

But even then, there’s no shortage of superstars coming from poor backgrounds either. Harrison Ford was a handyman on the Star Wars set. Pacino is a Bronx kid. So is De Niro. Stallone is the son of a hairdresser and an astrologer (and had to do pr0n before he got a real gig going). Jimmy Dean’s father was a farmer. Most of the Rat Pack were high school dropouts. And so on, and so forth. Until you come up with more than anecdotal evidence, I’ll stand by my statement.

Which, I’ll readily admit, wasn’t based on statistics or facts or whatnot, merely a “common sense” observation - namely that pro art is a gamble, sports also, and the majority of people won’t gamble when they have a safer option available.

I doubt there are more middle-class violinists than middle-class punk drummers. I bet it’s the reverse since a lot of violinists these days come from Asian or Eastern European countries and most Punk bands come from the suburbs.

Being a handyman on the Star Wars set isn’t being, ‘poor’. Carpentry is a good gig especially as a set builder.

As for being a “Bronx” kid, that doesn’t make you poor either, maybe both Pacino and De Niro were, but there is also the mega-wealthy Bronx and the straight middle-class Bronx.

Farmers can be super-rich or poor depending.

There are lots of poorly paid and unpaid actors and musicians who are able to do it mainly because they have Mommy and Daddy to fall back on. NYC is crawling with them.

For the Who Townshend, Entwistle and Moon were pretty much MC . I think Daltrey was WC.

Well I would also add, you can be upper class in a small town and then be lower class when you move to a big city. The old “big fish in a little pond,” thing.

Also a lot of famous people play down their upbringings to make it sound more colorful.

I recall movie studios in the 30s and 40s would say a kid who was adopted lived in orphanages, even though that never happend.

No one wants to say “My life was easy and I didn’t have to pay my dues.”

There’s more to class than just how much money you have, although that is the way Americans tend to look at it. But your thread title uses the word “socioeconomic”, and it really is a combination of both social and economic factors. I can think of several rock musicians with background that defy easy pigeonholing.

Iggy Pop grew up in a trailer park, so that’s poor or working class. But their housing situation was at least partially his parents’ choice – his father was a schoolteacher and his mother an executive secretary, both usually considered middle class occupations.

IIRC, Kim Thayil of Soundgarden came from a background similar to mine – his parents were grad students, so they had little money but were well educated and expected that their son would go to college.

Eddie Vedder was working in a gas station before he joined Pearl Jam, and his family was on a limited income when he was a child. His mother and stepfather took over running a group home in Chicago in part so that they would have a place to live. His mother worked as a waitress while his stepfather went back to school and got a law degree. Their financial situation went from working class to upper middle class by the time Vedder was in his teens, once his stepfather began working as a lawyer, but then his parents got divorced.

As for the rest of Pearl Jam, both guitarists are from middle class backgrounds. Stone Gossard’s father was a lawyer and his mother worked for the city government. Mike McCready’s father also worked for the city government, and his mother was an elementary school teacher. Bassist Jeff Ament is from a small town working class family, his father was a school bus driver. Both Gossard and Ament had been members of late '80s band Green River, which broke up largely because they wanted to pursue a recording contract while singer Mark Arm considered this “selling out”. But, as Ament has pointed out, Arm’s parents were supporting him while Ament was having to work several part-time jobs to get by.

This is correct. During the early days of the band he was working as welder. (The band’s original drummer, Doug Sandom, was a bricklayer.) Daltrey was also one of the few British Invasion era musicians with real “street” credentials; he has a scar on his stomach from a knife fight. The rest of The Who came from middle class families, although none were particularly affluent.

Townshend’s family background was unusual in that both his parents were professional musicians and his paternal grandparents had also been music hall performers. So it was not exactly a typical middle class family, but it seems that they were a little better off financially than the families of the other members of The Who. Pete Townshend was the only member of the band to have any post-secondary education and was also the only one never to have had a real “day job” before being able to support himself as a rock musician.

Oh, Elvis Presley is a good example of a rock star from a poor background. He had been considered “trash” by his high school classmates. I think his story is pretty well known now, but Wikipedia gives a good summary.