Elizabeth Armstrong, University of Michigan and Laura Hamilton, University of California Merced
Parents, Partners, and Professions: Reproduction and Mobility in a Cohort of College Women
This article draws on data from a twelve-year longitudinal qualitative interview study of forty-five white women who started college in 2004 at a public university in the American Midwest. We develop the concept of “class projects” to describe multigenerational strategies used to maximize class position. We deploy the concept to identify mechanisms producing upward and downward mobility, as well as reproduction into class privilege. We document three distinct class projects—gender complementarity, professional partnership, and mobility seeking. Women experienced better outcomes when they engaged in a project that was clearly articulated, intentionally pursued, and matched their family’s resources. Despite substantial downward mobility and modest upward mobility, women’s social class was relatively sticky from age 18 to 30. For most, family resources and marriage played a larger role in their adult life circumstances than their own earnings.
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