Monday, May 14, 2007

More on class and marriage: A reader outlined some limitations to using occupational prestige as a measure of class. In addition to his points, I was dissatisfied with the gender factor in general: a wife could easily come from a high status family, but might not pursue a prestigious career. Looking at education gets around some of these problems, so here are correlations among the same groups I listed in the earlier post:

Pearson correlation coefficients

Father's educ.--Respondent's educ., .49
Respondent's educ.--Spouse's educ., .62
Father's educ.--Spouse's educ., .44

Now these correlations are definitely stronger than when occupational prestige is used. How far you it make it in school depends a lot on Dad, but getting a successful career is more out of his hands.

It seems to me that the most important reality in all this talk of marriage is the simple principle of "homogamy." At least in the American context, it's not so much that you marry someone whose family is like yours in terms of status--you marry someone very much like yourself. Family is correlated with those characteristics, but modestly. This focus on family status is, I think, more on the minds of elites than ordinary people.

Now Steve's definition seems to focus on parental concern, but in American society, anyway, "concern" looks less like influence and more like hope. I know my working-class parents never cared in the least that I associate with people of a certain status: they only wanted me to hang out with good people. My parents would have been perfectly happy if I married a girl with only a high school degree. As for my sister's spouse, they only cared about character, not status. It makes sense that the higher your position, the more that class is a real issue since the people at the top can only maintain or move down.

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