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Social Class Culture Cycles: Gateway Contexts Shape Selves and Fuel Inequality


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Gateway contexts (home, school, workplace) can foster social class cultural differences. Mainstream institutions are structured to reflect and reinforce mostly middle-class ways of being a self. Through dual processes of differential socialization and the institutionalization of middle-class norms, gateway contexts can fuel and perpetuate inequality.

Conditions of different social class contexts give rise to culture-specific selves and corresponding patterns of behavior. Middle-class contexts tend to reflect and promote cultural norms of expressive independence. Working-class contexts tend to reflect and promote norms of hard interdependence. Each of these ways of being enables people to adapt to their local social class contexts.


Millennials from a lower socioeconomic status face serious challenges to accumulate wealth and gain power. This is not their own fault, their "selves" form in ways that are conditional to their environment.  And unfortunately, institutional norms reflect middle-class/upper-class perspectives because the people who hold the power to create these institutions and define rules and standards of success are typically from middle-class/upper-class backgrounds themselves.


This is a fantastic research review that should be mandatory reading for Millennials that want to understand the struggle to create equity for our generation.