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Abstract

This paper suggests that analyses of marriage experience take into account both structures of inequality and context. Although marriage is widely viewed as producing economic well-being and family stability, this analysis of a sample of White rural families finds the likelihood of realizing these benefits to be closely related to social class position. Marriage failed to produce these benefits for many working class and poor families. Although gains in economic self-sufficiency are viewed as an explanation for White women's perceived retreat from marriage, the limited opportunity structure for women in this rural place provides a context in which women continue to rely on marriage for economic survival.

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