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I fear this may be too broad, but I am looking for reasons earthborn humans would be considered inferior to those born on various space colonies. For example, it is important to reference the distinction when introducing oneself (I am AG Weyland, Earthborn, or I am AG Weyland, Starborn) to reinforce one's place in society.

This is set several hundred years in the future on Pallas, a large waterworld that orbits a red dwarf and has a very long "day" and a very long "night" due to a slow rotation (like Mercury). So what are some reasons being born on our (still-habitable) home planet would make a person inferior or lesser than those born in space colonies (think caste system)?

Earthborn people can still be rather successful, but they will still be viewed as lesser and could never hold public office or marry into a wealthy, established Starborn family, for example (similar to those in the merchant class versus the established aristocracy in England in the 1700s).

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    $\begingroup$ Their souls are held down by earth's gravity (this is a joke, not an answer, a reference to the Gundam universe) $\endgroup$ – Andrey Sep 25 '17 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ Do children of Earthborn (when born in space) become full-righted Starborn, or does it need several generations to be accepted? $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann Sep 25 '17 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ Only the best and brightest are able to leave (the Starborn don't want those who aren't exceptional). Those who leave could only marry a Starborn with limited social mobility. So it would be a stigma their children can overcome, but it would take a lot of ambition and drive to rise up in rank/ to prove they are more Starborn than Earthborn...there'd be an intentional distancing from the Earthborn parent and stigma (similar to the American-born children of Irish immigrants who worked hard to blend in and pretend to be WASPs to rise up socially--it takes a lot of work). $\endgroup$ – A.G. Weyland Sep 25 '17 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ Is there any wealth difference between colonists and earthborn? $\endgroup$ – BgrWorker Sep 26 '17 at 9:56
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    $\begingroup$ You should read the novella "Profession" by Asimov. It's set in a distant future where the highest ambition one can have is to land a good profession (by instantaneous learning by "taping", but you have to be a good fit brain-wise for a plum profession) that enables you to secure a life in an advanced Outworld, especially in a place called "Novia". To be left on Earth is considered a sign of mediocrity (there are worlds worse than Earth, though-e.g. the Goman Cluster "if you want to call them worlds"). Check it out: employees.oneonta.edu/blechmjb/JBpages/m360/… $\endgroup$ – Deepak Sep 26 '17 at 12:02

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To shamelessly crib an answer from Isaac Asimov:

The ones who went to the stars were the best humanity had to offer. Those left behind were not; therefore to be 'Earthborn' is (in the eyes of the Starborn) to come from inherently inferior stock. This prejudice can set in and become entrenched in the minds of the Starborn, especially if they have a period of not interacting with Earth.

And to shamelessly crib an answer from James S.A. Corey:

The Earthborn are lazy and weak. Their lives are ones of constant access to free air, drinkable water and easily accessible food. Corruption is in their genes, the care required to be successful away from the blue planet is not.

Whether or not these prejudices are actually founded is mostly irrelevant: In the eyes of the colonies anyone from Earth is a savage, born from a seething cesspool of inferior genetics or lazy, indolent and corrupt, and since the people from the colonies hold most of the material wealth (after all, space is a lot bigger than our one small, cosy rock), their prejudices inform the worldview of the system as a whole.

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    $\begingroup$ Heinlein also explored the concepts of space travel siphoning off the best that a planet had to offer, leaving an inferior and declining breed of human behind. He also had a few shorts that went into the differences between living on a planet vs artificial environments in terms of discipline, cleanliness, etc. $\endgroup$ – Rozwel Sep 25 '17 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ @joebloggs Perfectly stated! $\endgroup$ – A.G. Weyland Sep 25 '17 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Rozwel: I keep meaning to read more Heinlein, then I don't. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 25 '17 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Rozwel I need to as well! $\endgroup$ – A.G. Weyland Sep 25 '17 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ This was to be my answer, too :-) I would note that similar scenario was also used in the serial Robot City books, which were authored by various other people but based in a world with Three Laws robots. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Sep 25 '17 at 19:07
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The sins of the past still haunt us. During the early decades of space exploration, before the abundant wealth of the Belts (and later the outer planets) made star-born life safe and prosperous, we Earthers practically enslaved the colonists and miners. We added our own greed to the already numerous rigors of deep space and virgin planet colonization.

After the Rebellion... after you reminded us that we live at the bottom of a very deep gravity well... and that you have oh-so-many asteriods which you can drop... we learned to have proper respect for those who live above.

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Earthborn people are of lesser value because they were born on a planet that's almost depleted its resources leading to less genetic modifications

They may be similar to Starborn people, but their only chance to make sure that their bloodline will thrive is by getting away from their old, basically resource-deprived, planet and coming to the new and fancy Star where humanity established the next step of their evolution should take place.

While Earthborn still have old-fashioned traditional values Starborn not only know about the advantages of genetically modifying their people, but they are embracing it as part of becoming the next step in human evolution. Earthborn are currently on a similar evolutional level, but they won't be for long.

Earth is old. Star is new.

New is always better. And people who are better should be treated better.


By giving your Starborn a similar outlook on Earthborn you can easily establish a caste system. You can even reinforce this by making the Star better suited for genentic modifications and thereby making every Starborn for example more long-lived than an Earthborn. This will make the Earthborn feel inferior and make them desire to one day become a full-fledged Starborn. Though they themselves can't achieve this they can do everything to allow their future children to become real grand Starborn.

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    $\begingroup$ Very true. It's reminiscent of the American attitude toward much of Europe/ New World vs. Old World. $\endgroup$ – A.G. Weyland Sep 25 '17 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ Genetic modification is done in a lab dish, it relies on technical knowledge, not massive resources. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Mar 10 '18 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ Why do depleted resources lead to less gene modifications? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 11 '18 at 0:55
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Old war.

Consider white southerners in the post civil war US. In the North (the victors) there was and is tremendous prejudice against southerners, the losers in this war, and this continues to this date. From the Harvard Crimson - a letter protesting an editorial written in 1996.

The final biting prejudice against Southerners I will highlight states "most Southern whites were so crippled by inbred cultural racism that they could barely demonstrate that they were morally or intellectually superior to brute beasts." A Southerner I am; a brute beast I am not.

The frank depiction of Southern whites as ignorant, barefoot, racist, incestuous bumpkins was widespread and widely accepted. It is not a subject that gets a lot of traction, being overshadowed by ongoing racism and sidestepped by people who do not want to be seen as apologists for ongoing racism.

But this would be perfect for your world. There was a war. Earth lost and it suffered in the loss. The losers - the natives of Earth - are ridiculed to this day by the winners much in the way that the white Southerners were and are ridiculed in the North.

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    $\begingroup$ This works in reverse, too: many white Southerners to this day bear hatred toward the North. $\endgroup$ – DonielF Mar 11 '18 at 1:49
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Three tangible factors I can immediately think of:

  1. humans who left Earth in the first wave were the best and brightest, their genetic base has had a lasting influence, Spaceborn are just plan smarter, call it founder effect.

  2. adaptive genetics, first wave orbital and exoplanetary colonists have had their DNA tweaked, not so much for direct advantage but for enhanced adaptability to adverse conditions, including but not limited to superior intelligence.

  3. money, the first wave stand to make a lot of money, or it's future equivalents, according to a number of commentators on the issue. Space has a lot of resources, many of which are scarce, or becoming scarce, on Earth. As such there will be a major wealth shift towards the early colonies during the export phase when they pump resources back down the gravity well.

Another, slightly mystical, thought is pilgrimage. The Starborn are the children of those who took the leap, it affords them a certain mystique, a holy status. Earthborn are reduced by comparison.

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Humans really don't need a beneficial reason to do this to people who are different. Given something to be tribal and insular about, we will be tribal and insular about it regardless of how stupid and pointless it is.

We can be tribal about being opposed to being tribal.

We can even be tribal about being being opposed to being tribal about being opposed to being tribal, and still not notice what's going on.

"Everyone knows you can't trust a stupid Earthborn to do anything right."

That's going to be plenty to give you all the bigotry and prejudice you could want.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your first paragraph contradicts itself "Humans really don't need reasons to do this" and then "Given something to be tribal and insular about... That "something is the reason to be tribal and insular. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 11 '18 at 0:57
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It might be for the same reason that someone with a home, good job, and family, might feel superior to someone who lives in the ghetto.

Earth is the birthplace of humanity, but in this future it's also a backwater slum where no one lives that doesn't need to. Most people see earthers as bums who live on the dole, unable or unwilling to put in the work to get ahead and get off planet. It's not that there aren't opportunities to get ahead on earth, but the number who do are statistically insignificant enough that they are seen as the exception that proves the rule.
Any earthers who actually do manage to pull themselves up want to get off planet as quickly as possible to avoid the skyrocketing taxes, political corruption, crowded living conditions, pollution, and a host of other factors that make living on earth undesirable.
This is also reinforced by the attitudes of the people who get out of it, who see those that are still trapped there as lazy unfortunates who could improve their situation if they were just willing to try a little harder, and if the government wasn't making it so easy to just stay there in poverty.

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The most obvious answer is wealth. Orbital habitats would be man made paradise for the ultra wealthy and nothing gives the feelings of superiority than money.

See Elysium

Dirt is for the peasants.

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Have Earth carry the stigma of having destroyed their environment for greed necessitating the flight of the enlightened to become the "Starborn".

It really takes very little to brand one group or another as the "oother", thereby giving you every justification for the maltreatment of whole swaths of people.

So your history looks a little like this: Planet earth is dying by degrees from pollution, overpopulation, zombie apocalypse, whatever. During the turmoil, exploration of various planets and the invention of some sort of FTL travel starts a push for volunteers to explore new planets.

Here is a key point though. The bulk of the volunteers share in common the thought that they will not make the same mistakes that were made on earth (whatever you decide those mistakes were).

After a few colonies are established and thriving, the information on balanced ecosystems gets back to Earth, and the Earth begins to heal.

Fast forward a century or two. You now have two societies, each functionally similar. The Starborn, however, saddle the Earthborn with the original sin of pollution. This makes the Earthborn "other" and therefore excluded from the society on Pallas.

Look around in history and you see examples of this in lots of different places.

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It could be that Earth has falling apart because of various Wars or natural disasters. And is now considered a third world, all the educated and Wealthy having left to the colonies, people from Earth are considered to be idiots and lazy. Some may even look at them as some sort of lesser subspecies of human with lower intelligence ( not unlike the way African Americans, and the Irish were once viewed in the US).

Also the humans who left Earth have a much higher level of Technology especially concerning DNA manipulation. As such their populations have been genetically modified to be superior to those Earth both physically and mentally. This causes some starborn to pass laws forbidding earth-born and starborn to breed as they're genetically engineered perfection family line might be tainted by the inferior DNA of a earth born.

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    $\begingroup$ That makes sense. Naturally, the best and brightest would be sent to space to colonize. $\endgroup$ – A.G. Weyland Sep 25 '17 at 18:08
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Those starborn or spaceborn might have better adapted to their environment than outsiders such as earth born.

Earthborn humans might be regarded as inferior to those born on various space colonies due to adaptive differences between the two. For example space- or planetborn humans might be better adapted to their environments than earthborn humans. If the spaceborn were from a lower gravity environment they might have muscular or skeletal changes which made movement for them much easier making the earthborn appear awkward or ungainly. Even if these differences were relatively small or were only cosmetic they might have a disproportionate effect.

By comparison skin colour in the current Earth population is a minor adaption to levels of sunlight that has had (and still has) a totally disproportionate effect on how people of coloured skin are perceived and treated.

As another example from the OP’s world of Pallas, perhaps the Pallasians have adapted to the longer days by being able to take short "micro sleeps" during the day when conveenient or by simply having a longer period between sleeping. Earthborn might not be able to do this and their irregular sleeping habits might be seen as strange and disruptive.

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  • $\begingroup$ But why does this make Earthlings, specifically, inferior to all other peoples? Assuming the OP means for Earthlings to be inferior and not the more broad "planet-born," this fails to address why Venusians or Martians are not considered inferior. Also, anyone not from <location> would be considered inferior under these constraints, which is not what the OP is wanting. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 26 '17 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps some clarification would be useful here from the OP. Are earthlings inferior to all other spacefaring peoples? Or just inferior to space born people and not to other planet born people? If it’s just space born or space born and planet born, there would still likely be some sort of adaptive difference. 1g, standard atmosphere and temperature etc as opposed to the conditions in a colony or on another planet. Whatever the difference it might trigger antagonism, as it doesn’t take much. For example we already have persecution because of skin colour. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Sep 26 '17 at 13:03
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For issues of physical superiority, you might consider humans evolving on world that has higher gravity than Earth. That is one of the premises of the Deathworld novels by Harry Harrison. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deathworld

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  • $\begingroup$ The Pyrrans have more of a case than just gravity. Their background in fighting the hostile fauna and flora of their homeworld leaves them far better in a fight than offworlders. And while they would think themselves superior to people from Earth, they would have the same reaction to everywhere else as well. That includes other planets with the same or higher gravity. $\endgroup$ – Brythan Sep 25 '17 at 23:33
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It could be the colonies are seen as a restart of humanity, a breath of fresh air by branching into the cosmos. The colonies could be seen as entirely different species due to their differing histories. Akin to how previously us Earthlings considered people of different color different species, but instead the other colonies would have vastly differing history, which would actually make a difference. This wouldn't even be due to their inability to quickly have physical interactions, but they would have very slow interactions at all, with the absolute shortest round-trip light-carried message being 8.286 years to Proxima Centauri B.

That idea could be compounded with the high probability colonies would receive the cream-of-the-crop of Earth's population. As well as them possibly receiving genetic modification or rigorous therapy to cope with the mental and physical stress that would come with going to an enormously distant planet unexplored, with relatively few people in comparison to Earth's 7 billion to 10 billion people.

Earthlings could be seen as weak, slow-to-explore cowards that have issues with scientific advancement. As the explorers would likely be chosen for their scientific curiosity, and since Earth would have no such demand placed, Earthlings would have a much lower curiosity in that sense due to deniers simply existing.

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Genetic disorganization. Space colonists would begin in small enough numbers to be very judicious in their parent pairings to avoid inbreeding. That Earth-worlders value individual choice and marry for love (tho usually to someone very similar to themselves) without regard to the potential genetic disorders or risk of harm to future generations. So Earth-ers can be seen as reckless, selfish, romantic, unrealistic.

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Prior to the current civilized era, leaving the Earth gravity well was exceedingly expensive.

Only a small number of humans did so over time. As industry and biospheres where built off-planet, exponential growth kicked in, and humans born from colonists started outgrowing the colonists.

The colonists where Earth's best and brightest, and they had to survive through a crucible of the harshest environments humankind has ever lived through. Initial generations faced an overall negative growth rate, where only the smartest, toughest, and most resourceful survived. Those that did survive gave birth to dynasties which stride the stars.

The Starborn are the inheritors of the Universe. They are the World Forgers.

All the while, Earth wallowed in its muck. Unable to escape the heat-trap, it remained stuck below a Type 1 civilization while the Starborn had no practical environmental limit before Type 2.

Trade of goods wasn't practical due to the gravitational barrier, and Earth lost interest in the off-world colonies and focused on its own problems. The Starborn colonies either died, remained dependent on Earth and hence tiny, or became self suffient and grew exponentially. Within a few generations, the commanding heights of Starborn civilization had gone its separate way from Earth. It never really looked back.

Starting a few 100 years ago, it became practical to mass-lift the Earthborn up to space. But it wasn't anything the Earthborn could afford (the value of anything physical on Earth was still exceeded the lift costs, and Starborn really wasn't interested in backward Earth technology. Some enjoyed their primitive low art, but that isn't enough for real trade.) Still, as a charity project, a Beanstalks was built (and it was used to build more), and Earthborn where lifted off planet. Poor, with little education and knowledge and contacts, they grew in number.

Meanwhile, the Starborn proceeded towards a Type 2 civiliation. Dismantling planets for raw materials to build worlds and energy gathering mechanisms to enable interstellar travel. By Type 1.4, (roughly 10 million times richer than the USA) lifting a few billion tonnes of flesh off Earth becomes an easy problem. But what will we do with them?

After the beanstalk was built, the Starborn referred to the new wave of colonists as Earthborn. Their descendents are still called that, as are this new wave of flesh enabled by modern lift technology.

The Starborn are the descendents of the first wave(s) of colonization. It is their civilization that is a Type 1.4 civilization (1 part in 1E6 of the Sun's energy captured); the Earth-bound civilization is Type 0.8 (heat and ecosystem constrained), while the Earthborn in space civilization is barely over Type 1.

Technologically and wealth-wise, the Earthborn civilization is to the Starborn as an uncontacted tribe today is to the USA. And the actual planet-bound civilization on the planet is half again poorer.

Everyone believes that the Earthborn have the potential, given a few 100 years, to reach biological maturity in space. I mean, the Starborn started off as Earthborn! A few dozen generations of gene optimization, education, gestalt uploads and integration would bring them up to civilized human (aka Starborn) standards. Meanwhile, the Starborn permit the Earthborn to join them on some exploration. It would be cruel to leave them trapped down there. And their culture is so interesting and cute.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very cool ideas! I'm not going that direction entirely, but I like it! Thank you for the answers. :) Earth is still habitable, and only very gifted people leave Earth to see glory or advancement in the colonies. There's still the prejudice against Earthborn people though. $\endgroup$ – A.G. Weyland Sep 26 '17 at 21:03
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In The Expanse Martians are considered inferior and weaker, and they are weaker compared to people from Earth due to the low gravity on Mars. In The Orville there is one crew member which was born on a high gravity planet and she is stronger compared to Earthlings. So if you have your colonists be born on a high gravity planet they will at least be physically superior.

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Compared to the total Earth population, very few left to explore/colonize new worlds. As already stated in other answers, they would have been the best and brightest. Having a limited (though already superior) genetic stock to draw from, care would be needed to ensure that offspring would have the best chance of survival. Parents may be self-selected couples, but the children they rear would necessarily develop from artificially fertilized embryos resulting from the best possible pairings of male and female DNA - likely not their own - not just to avoid inbreeding and genetic defects, but to enhance the most necessary, valuable, and desireable traits. In a word: eugenics.

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Being Earthborn is seen as inferior because it is natural, the "default" way of being human.

I think a parallel could be made with Pedestrian vs Driver.

Pedestrian is the natural state, it requires no effort, and it is not distinctive at all (I am being ironic here), while having a car and being a driver is seen by mani as a sort of merit, a proof of successful effort and thus a sort of prize, and as such a status symbol.

If I were Starborn, I would consider my fathers as being the ones that moved forward, the active ones, instead of the passive, "lazier" ones that remained on Earth (ironic again).

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It's that edge you get from needing to be serious minded from a young age. If you live on the planet you can grow up soft and lazy, not needing to mind if you spill some water or breathe too much. Some plants or algae will pick up most of the CO_2 slack and if not, hey, you've got a gigantic buffer.

Not so in space. Those lazy habits will kill you. Growing up planetside makes you sloppy. Makes you dangerous to everyone on board. Makes you want to do the nice thing rather than the necessary thing for everyone's survival.

It's cultural, not genetic, so those who consistently demonstrate the proper sobriety can, of course, escape the stigma. Most can tell who are Earthborn from a minute of observation. If you run into a guy who can pass, you can generally trust him.

If you run into a Spaceborn who doesn't show the proper mindset, the scorn will run far deeper.

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I don't think you need much of a reason beside technological inferiority. About 30000 years the first humans walked out of Africa, the attitude of European vs African for the last few hundred years has hardly been egalitarian.

Tribes generally dislike and distrust, each other and humans typically jump at any opportunity to see themselves as superior to another tribe.

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To me the most immediate answer is that of wealth disparity. Currently on the planet, we can group people into categories based on how they get around:

Shoes - Bikes - Cars - Planes

In the future, there would be a new category - Spaceships. People who use spaceships for transportation are the richest of the rich. Think of the difference between someone with a private plane, to someone who has a car.

It costs a lot of money to acquire and operate a spaceship. The fuel costs are enormous to get on and off most planets, and servicing the various components requires incredible technical expertise. So as a result, only the richest of the rich can ever afford them.

This creates an entirely new class of people, and they are very likely to view those with less as inferior to them, which creates exactly the type of system you desire.

Space-born individuals may view the planet Earth and it's inhabitants in a similar way to how first-world people presently view the third-world.

For the public office, it's simple. These are based on elections, and money has such a large role in the political process, nobody from the lower class has a chance.

For marriage, there are a lot of forces at play. Firstly, space-born individuals have very limited contact with Earth-born individuals in which to develop any romantic interests. Secondly, Earth-born individuals are widely seen as less capable and a setback. And finally, space-born society has less people and is thus more closely knit, so the level of impact of the opinions of others is much greater.

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On Earth unending piles of trash, continuous incessant wars, poverty, laziness (we called them hobos at one time) are our inferior heritage. Our colonizing group is made up of the cream of the crop who have never experienced poverty (after all the poor can't afford to travel in space) and are looking to create a new utopia. After a 100 years of developing a new society and nation, a hand picked, privately governed (traditional judicial systems need not apply to this utopia), mono-hegemonic, purebred colony, overcoming many challenges Earthers never had to deal with, we may still hold a reverence for where we originated from, but are far superior in breeding, intelligence and those we branched off of a century ago.

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This isn't really an answer to your question but if you look at the Settlement Defense Front in Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, this is an example of a society that believes Earthborn are inferior even to the point that they must be destroyed/dominated. You can look more into this here http://callofduty.wikia.com/wiki/Portal:Call_of_Duty:_Infinite_Warfare

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