Do We Marry Into the Same Economic Class as Our Parents?

by TTMK on September 25, 2014 · 8 comments

The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai

I went to a Big 10 college and lived off campus. I shared a room with a girl who came from my hometown. (I’ll call her Jessie.) Jessie was one of six children born to a stay-at-home mom and an opthalmologist father. Her family was relatively well off, but she was in a wild bohemian phase in college, and we got along great.

I, on the other hand, was born to a stay-at-home mom who eventually began a day care center in her home to bring in more money. My dad worked in a factory. My upbringing was decidedly blue collar.

While Jessie and I got along great in college, we eventually lost touch. I had not talked to her for over 20 years when I found her on Facebook.

Jessie was a mathematics major in college, and she moved to Chicago and became a teacher. Now she has three kids and is a stay-at-home mom. I don’t know what her husband does, but clearly he makes a very good income. All three of their kids attend private school, their family goes to the beach for a week every year, they just built a new house in a very expensive suburb of Chicago (where property taxes alone run $15,000 to $20,000 a year), and for her 40th birthday, her husband surprised her with a trip to San Francisco.

My husband and I also have three kids, but our life is very different. I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom who works part-time from home as a writer and virtual assistant. My husband just completed his Ph.D. two years ago and is currently in a post-doc/researcher position. He has the potential to make a very good income, but that is several years down the road. We just bought our first house this summer when we made the move from the Chicago suburbs to Tucson, Arizona where the cost of living is much cheaper.

Every time I tell my husband about Jessie, he always laughs, “Sorry, you married the wrong man.” He’s joking, and I couldn’t be happier with the man I married or the life we have together.

Still, my husband and I have both reflected on how many people who come from a more financially secure background tend to marry people who can also help them achieve the same financial security.

We’ve often wondered, do people marry into the same economic class as their parents? When we’ve looked at our friends and their spouses, the vast majority, especially women, are married to men who help them reach the same level of financial security their own parents did.

My Question for You

Did you marry someone who helped you achieve the same level of financial security you had when growing up, or are you in a vastly different economic class now than you were growing up?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean @ NearlyRetired September 26, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Interesting post!

I pretty much followed the same pattern as my mother. She was a banker married to a construction superintendent, and together they provided us a solid middle-class lifestyle. I’m a sales engineer married to a master electrician — pretty much the same deal. 🙂

One thing that occurred to me as I read your description of Jessie’s lifestyle — I know a surprising number of people who look well-off but are actually heavily mired in debt. You never know for sure what a person’s financial life is really like….

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TTMK October 3, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Great point, it can be tough to tell what someone’s actual financial life is really like. That’s why saying the course with our own goals is important vs competing.

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Jon @ Money Smart Guides September 29, 2014 at 7:33 am

My wife and I both came from blue collar families where our parents never went to college. We both have college degrees (I have my masters) and we are both much better off than our parents.

When I look at a number of my friends though, they do fit the mold you’ve laid out – marrying and having a life much like their parents. It is an interesting observation.

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TTMK October 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Funny how that seems to work!

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Anne @ Money Propeller September 29, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Great topic idea. I have seen shifts all around in the people that I know, except for some who came from well off families but never went to school or really did anything with themselves after high school. For many people from my high school, it will be very difficult for them to replicate their parent’s wealth.
My brother will be very well off due to the career he chose, which will be a lifestyle improvement for my SIL, though her upbringing was a rather comfortable middle class one, not terribly dissimilar to ours. My spouse came from a slightly wealthier family than me, but combined we make a very good income and our spending lifestyle is quite similar to how we were both raised.
Sorry, I basically wrote a post in the comments!

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TTMK October 3, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Longer comments like yours are welcome, thanks for stopping by and sharing!

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Zee @ Work To Not Work September 30, 2014 at 12:56 am

That’s an interesting observation, while obviously this isn’t always the case I’m sure there are factors that can help skew things in that direction. For example, if your friend returned back to her parents home after college and she met someone from the same neighborhood she grew up in, chances are whomever she met would be in a similar socio-economic class. Also, you can’t discredit that a lot of people keep in touch with old friends that they grew up with, often meaning they came from similar neighborhoods and generally a roughly similar financial household. So if people start relationships with people they grew up with or meet people through those there’s a higher chance they will come from similar backgrounds.

Another thing that may contribute to this is social activities. Let’s say you meet someone at a country club that has an annual membership of $5000 per year, I’d say that those people may have a closer chance of similar economic status. I even know of some gyms nearby my work that cost $300 per month because apparently they are really really nice.

People also meet their spouses though work or even by taking the same courses in college, so teachers may marry teachers, and doctors may marry doctors.

I’m not married so I’m not a statistic yet 🙂

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TTMK October 3, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Those are good points, in that there are most certainly some factors that lead people down that path. Work and social activities are a part of that.

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