Upper-class romance: homogamy at the apex of the class structure

Based on data covering the entire population, Maren Toft og Vegard Jarness demonstrate that the Norwegian upper class tend to find their patners among the same upper class.

Cover of the journal  European Societies


This article focuses on social closure by way of marital homogamy within the upper class. It offers new insights into the social structuring of romantic partnerships, while drawing on research on assortative mating and contemporary elite and class analysis. The analysis is based on detailed data covering the entire Norwegian population. Our main point of focus is the upper class, whose patterns of partner choice have been little studied. By drawing on Bourdieu’s model of the social space, we move beyond conventional operationalisations of class. The analysis demonstrates that romantic partnerships within the upper class are structured along three dimensions of class: (i) vertical inter-class closure (upper-class individuals are disproportionately more likely to have partners in upper-class positions); (ii) horizontal intra-class closure (a tendency for marrying within the same upper-class fraction); (iii) closure by class trajectory (upwardly mobile newcomers are disproportionately more unlikely to have upper-class partners). We also demonstrate how class divisions intersect with gender divisions. Among the men, there are important differences between the upper-class fractions: the cultural fraction is more homogamous than the other fractions, and the economic fraction is comparatively more likely to have partners from lower down in the class structure.

Read the article in European Societies.

Published Sep. 28, 2020 2:28 PM - Last modified Sep. 28, 2020 2:28 PM