Summary: People have increasingly married others from their same class; the number of people marrying up or down (to classes higher or lower than their own) has decreased over time. This is one pattern of assortative mating, or the process through which people tend to marry someone with similar traits to themselves (e.g. education, wealth, age). A 2013 ASR article, "Trends and Variation in Assortative Mating" identifies the many causes and consequences of these patterns. One cause, which is depicted in this excerpt from People LIke Us: Social Class in America, is the varying forms and levels of cultural capital across members of different classes. The different cultural practices and preferences related to class background can ultimately shape who we are attracted to and who we feel comfortable around. The video features a woman, who was born as a "poor country girl" but married into the upper class, and has made her living replicating the cultural practices and norms of her new class. She teaches a working-class woman how to position herself in proximity to others, how to dress (they shop for a $2500 outfit, and she is "worth it"), "desire shop," and be confident with members of the upper class, all in preparation for finding a partner from a wealthier background. Toward the end of the video, a commentator ponders whether a person is truly able to ever change their class, arguing that it would take "a lifetime of study and actors'/actress' training" to master the cultural practices of the wealthy elite. The clip works well to illustrate cultural capital and to engage in discussions about the causes and consequences of assortative mating, especially in terms of economic inequality. For example, what is the role of class and cultural capital in shaping our marriage partners and how does this lead to class reproduction?
Submitted By: Paul Dean