Apart from weakened labor protections and the uneven distribution of productivity gains to workers, marital trends can play a role in maintaining inequality as well. Sociologists such as Robert Mare and Kate Choi argue that the tendency for people to marry people like themselves extends to the realms of income, educational level, and occupation—which means richer people marry those with similar levels of wealth and income.
Marriages that unite two people from different class backgrounds might seem to be more egalitarian, and a counterweight to forces of inequality. But recent research shows that there are limitations to cross-class marriages as well.
In her 2015 book The Power of the Past, the sociologist Jessi Streib shows that marriages between someone with a middle-class background and someone with a working-class background can involve differing views on all sorts of important things—child-rearing, money management, career advancement, how to spend leisure time. In fact, couples often overlook class-based differences in beliefs, attitudes, and practices until they begin to cause conflict and tension.
When it comes to attitudes about work, Streib draws some particularly interesting conclusions about her research subjects. She finds that people who were raised middle-class are often very diligent about planning their career advancement. They map out long-term plans, meet with mentors, and take specific steps to try to control their career trajectories. People from working-class backgrounds were no less open to advancement, but often were less actively involved in trying to create opportunities for themselves, preferring instead to take advantage of openings when they appeared.