The Power of the Past: Understanding Cross-Class Marriages

Jessi Streib


Oxford University Press

In an era in which class divisions are becoming starker than ever, some individuals are choosing to marry across class. Sociology assistant professor Jessi Streib traces the lives of a subset of these individuals—highly-educated adults who married a partner raised in a class different from their own, primarily between those from blue-collar and white-collar backgrounds. Drawing upon detailed interviews with spouses who revealed the inner workings of their marriages, she shows that crossing class lines is not easy, and that even though these couples shared bank accounts, mortgages, children, and friends, each spouse was still shaped by the class of their past, and consequently, so was their marriage.

The Power of the Past illustrates that when individuals are raised in different classes, merged lives do not lead to merged ideas about how to lead those lives. Individuals can come together across class lines, but their enduring class characteristics cannot be left behind.

Streib talked about her research with in an interview with New York Magazine.