Abstracts and Papers

 

Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in Britain and the U.S. Since 1850 (updated November 2009)
With Joseph Ferrie
Earlier version available as NBER working paper 11253
Forthcoming, American Economic Review

Abstract
:  The U.S. both tolerates more inequality than Europe and believes its economic mobility is greater than Europe’s. These attitudes and beliefs help account for differences in the magnitude of redistribution through taxation and social welfare spending. In fact, the U.S. and Europe had roughly equal rates of inter-generational occupational mobility in the late twentieth century. We extend this comparison into the late nineteenth century using longitudinal data on 23,000 nationally-representative British and U.S. fathers and sons. The U.S. was substantially more mobile than Britain through 1900, so in the experience of those who created the U.S. welfare state in the 1930s, the U.S. had  indeed been “exceptional.” The margin by which U.S. mobility exceeded British mobility was erased by the 1950s, as U.S. mobility fell compared to its nineteenth century levels.
PowerPoint slides (shorter)   PowerPoint slides (longer)

Social Mobility Within and Across Generations in Britain Since 1851 (updated January 2008)
Revise and resubmit, Journal of Economic History
Abstract
:  This paper exploits a rich data source to provide new measures of social mobility in England and Wales from 1851 to 1901. Existing measures of intergenerational mobility derived from marriage registries fail to control for life-cycle differences between father and son. Correcting for this reveals significantly more mobility across generations than previous estimates: half of all sons occupy a different occupational class than their father, and upward mobility exceeds downward by 40 percent. In addition, the rate of intragenerational mobility is measured for the first time. While slightly lower than mobility across generations, it is substantial; 44 percent of young males changed occupational class over a thirty-year period. International and intertemporal comparisons show that mobility in Britain was much lower than in the U.S., but that unlike in the U.S., it trended upward from the 1850s to the 1970s.
PowerPoint slides (shorter)   PowerPoint slides (longer)

The Path to Convergence: Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in Britain and the U.S. in Three Eras
With Joseph Ferrie
Economic Journal, March 2007

Abstract
:  Intergenerational occupational mobility was substantially higher in the U.S. than in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century, as social commentators noted at the time and as new longitudinal data demonstrate. Since the Second World War, however, there have been no discernable differences in this type of mobility between these two economies. Using new longitudinal data on 10,000 nationally-representative U.S. and British father and son pairs followed over two twenty year intervals in the late nineteenth century (the 1860s and 1870s, and then the 1880s and 1890s), we examine how this convergence occurred. The U.S. remained substantially more mobile then Britain through 1900, but the margin by which U.S. mobility exceeded British mobility fell over the last two decades of the nineteenth century (as British mobility rose slightly) and was entirely erased by the 1950s (as mobility decreased in both countries but fell by more in the U.S. than in Britain).

The Socioeconomic Return to Primary Schooling in Victorian England
Journal of Economic History, December 2006
Abstract
:  In this paper I provide a micro-level analysis of primary schooling in Victorian England. Using a new dataset of school-age males linked between the 1851 and 1881 population censuses, I examine the determinants of childhood school attendance and the impact of attendance on adult labor market outcomes. I find that schooling had a positive effect on adult occupational class and that the associated wage gains were likely to have outweighed the cost of schooling. However, this effect was small relative to father’s class, and the effect of education on earnings appears to have been small relative to modern results.

Rural-Urban Migration and Socioeconomic Mobility in Victorian Britain
Journal of Economic History, March 2005

Abstract
:  This paper analyses rural-urban migration in Great Britain in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Using a new dataset of 28,000 individuals matched between the 1851 and 1881 population censuses, I examine the selection process and treatment effect of migration, controlling for the endogeneity of the migration decision. I find that urban migrants were positively selected—the best of the rural labor pool—and that the economic benefits of migration were substantial. Migrants responded to market signals, and labor markets were largely efficient; however, not all gains from migration were exploited, potentially indicating some degree of inefficiency.
Shorter version prepared for 2002 Cliometrics Conference

Geographic and Occupational Mobility in Britain and the U.S., 1850-1881
Working Paper, 2004
With Joseph Ferrie
Abstract
:  Using longitudinal data on individual males linked between censuses separated by 30 years, we examine patterns of geographic and occupational mobility in the last half of the nineteenth century for two industrializing economies: the U.K. (1851-81) and the U.S. (1850-80). We find considerably higher rates of geographic mobility in the U.S. Though the frequency of moves was similar (roughly two thirds moved over 30 years in each country), moves were ten times as great in distance in the U.S. Upward occupational mobility between fathers’ and sons’ occupations and between an individual’s first and last jobs was considerably more frequent in the U.S. For example, only one in five sons of unskilled fathers in the U.S. at the start of the 1850s failed to attain a higher status job by the start of the 1880s; the corresponding figure for the U.K. was nearly one in two. Upward mobility was associated more strongly with education in the U.K. than in the U.S. Background characteristics more generally were better predictors of occupational attainment in the U.K. than in the U.S.

Labour Mobility
With Joseph Ferrie. Entry in Joel Mokyr (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

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Colby College Economics Department