The goal of this study is to highlight the embodied nature of social class inequalities in education. Drawing from a larger study that examined educational outcomes and work careers of young people whose families received welfare benefits in Croatia when these individuals were of high school age, the article focuses on biographical narrative interviews with three young individuals. These strategically selected cases were characterized by a shared experience of living in poverty that was, nevertheless, marked by very different initial intersections of social advantages and disadvantages (middle-class fall into poverty, intergenerational poverty, and poverty intersecting with anti-Roma racism). Based on the comparison of these three life stories, this study utilizes Bourdieu’s concept of habitus as a conceptual tool, incorporating both cognitive and affective schemas, to examine how these young individuals framed their lives and educational trajectories. In doing so, this study builds on the work by scholars such as Reay who extend the explorations of embodied social inequalities in education into the realm of emotions, which are—in line with the growing body of work in the sociology of emotions—understood as embedded in (unequal) social relations. Therefore, the analysis of this study focuses on how, in the three examined life stories, the horizons of probable, possible, and unimaginable were perceived very differently and shaped by distinct affective structures. The findings of this study suggest that cognitive and affective schemas function jointly, as integral elements of a social inequalities’ mechanism rooted in the compounding of advantages or disadvantages.

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