SOCIAL CLASS AND MARRIAGE by Pringshak Manasseh

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    Society is stratified into social class based on wealth, income, educational attainment, occupation, and so on, with some values given more precedence than the others. Individuals tend to form relationships with those of equal standing as themselves. This inevitably strengthen class differences. In some cases, individuals may acculturate to the cultures of another class when ascending or descending in the social order. There are mainly 3 classifications of social class. They include the upper class, the middle class, and the lower class. A benefit or consequence of being in a class position seems to determine the degree to which one has ease of access to educational opportunities, job opportunities, health care etc. In marriage however, being a socially recognised union, partner selection may be due to varying motives, which may include legal, social, financial, spiritual or religious purposes. So, does social class have an impact on the choice of a spouse? If so, to what degree?

    Most marriages ensue within the same social group (endogamy/homogamy), rejecting others as unsuitable for marriage. Some cultural norms and expectations require one to marry from the same group. This may be because of shared backgrounds, experiences, geographic proximity, or financial capabilities. This social pressure stems out of the desire of the groups wanting to preserve a sense of distinctiveness from other classes. Some individuals feel more comfortable with a partner of similar class, with the hope of maintaining economic stability by get married to someone of the same class or culture.

    However, nuptial agreements do exist between contrasting social groups (exogamy/hypergamy). This being the practice of a woman marrying a man of higher social status than herself, the reverse scenario not being ruled out as a possibility. Studies around the globe have shown that women take into consideration the potential of the man to financially provide for the family. This is true cross-culturally. There is a prospect of having better educational, financial opportunities and a better shot at life for the progenies.

    But not all unions are as a result of choice (arranged marriages). The bride and groom can be selected by their families. Perhaps it is the parent’s way of wanting to ensure their child’s financial security. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for improved social status of the family involved. It is also possible that the union may be for the purpose of creating alliances between families or communities.

    On observational analysis, individuals in the middle class have the greatest freedom of choice in mate selection with most of the population being below the exclusive top triangle of the social class hierarchy. However, one should not rule out the possibility of a transformation in significance given to a value system that would influence the selection process for a spouse. There is more pressure placed on women to “marry up” to a social class than on men, the embedded and culturally deep idea being to secure the future wellbeing of generations unborn. There is a potentially positive socioeconomic effect that is being sort after. That is a logically better part of the deal to bargain for.

    Social status can be observed as a factor for partner selection. Various reasoning contributes to a person’s choice of marrying from a particular social class. On an idiosyncratic front, value is always given to one attribute over the rest. That is the thing at the top of the pyramid. The thing that is focused on, blinding the individual to the rest, for better or worse.

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