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Social Mobility Within and Across Generations in Britain Since 1851. Jason Long Department of Economics Colby College September 2007. Social Mobility in 19 th Century Britain Why Does Mobility Matter?. Fundamental to our understanding of economic equality and “fairness” of society.

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social mobility within and across generations in britain since 1851

Social Mobility Within and Across Generations in Britain Since 1851

Jason Long

Department of Economics

Colby College

September 2007

social mobility in 19 th century britain why does mobility matter
Social Mobility in 19th Century BritainWhy Does Mobility Matter?
  • Fundamental to our understanding of economic equality and “fairness” of society.
    • Importance of Distribution is obvious, and well-studied – income, earnings, wealth, etc.
    • But Mobility informs our understanding of a given distribution: two societies with identical earnings distributions but different mobility regimes are not equally equal (Stokey, 1996).

Distribution → Equality of Outcome

Mobility → Equality of Opportunity

equality in 19 th century britain wage and wealth distribution
Equality in 19th Century BritainWage and Wealth Distribution
  • Subject of economic inequality and “Kuznets hypothesis” has received much attention:
    • Williamson (1980, 1982, 1985): Pay ratios show Kuznets curve – stability from late 18thc until early 19th, rising inequality until mid-century, leveling up to WWI
    • Feinstein (1988): No trend during 19th century
    • Lindert (1986, 2000, 2002): Real inequality increased earlier than previously thought, from 1740 – 1810. Wealth inequality greater before 1914 than since 1950.
equality in 19 th century england social mobility
Equality in 19th Century EnglandSocial Mobility
  • Major work is Miles, Social Mobility in 19th and Early 20th Century England (1999). Also Mitch (1993) and Miles (1993).
    • 68% of sons in same occupational class as father from 1839-54, falling to 53% by 1899-1914.
    • “In terms of its inhabitants’ relative life chances, [Victorian and Edwardian England was] a profoundly unequal society.”
  • 20th Century Results:
    • Goldthorpe (1980): 51% in 1972 in same class as father

58% in same class as first full-time job

Mobility trendless in 20th century: “Constant social fluidity”

    • Baines, Johnson (1999): Higher working class mobility (50%) in interwar London than in England from 1899-1914 (40%)
    • Dearden et al (1997): Father/Son earnings elasticity between 0.4 and 0.6
studying mobility in 19 th century england marriage registry data
Studying Mobility in 19th Century EnglandMarriage Registry Data
  • All previous studies have relied on data from marriage registries.
  • 1836 Registration of Births, Deaths, and Marriages Act: church registers must record occupation of bride, groom, and parents
  • Advantages: (1) Unique in recording fathers’, sons’ occupations

(2) Signitures provide proxy for literacy

  • Disadvantages
    • Excludes non-marrying population (10% of 45-year old males)
    • Includes only Anglican ceremonies (by 1914, over 40% of marriages were non-Anglican)
    • “Snapshot problem”: Father and son at point in time  Does not control for stage of life cycle
    • Cannot observe intra-generational mobility at all
research questions
Research Questions
  • 1. What was the rate of intergenerational social mobility in nineteenth-century Britain?
  • How does controlling for life-cycle effects change what we know about mobility?
  • 2. How prevalent was intra-generational mobility?
  • How does it compare to mobility across generations?
  • 3. How does mobility in nineteenth-century Britain compare with other countries then and with Britain in the twentieth century?
  • What is the long-run trend in mobility?
studying mobility in the 19 th century linked census data
Studying Mobility in the 19th CenturyLinked Census Data
  • 2% Sample of 1851 Census

168,130 men in England and Wales

  • Match Criteria:
  • Name (phonetic)
  • Year of birth
  • County of birth
  • Parish of birth
  • +
  • Complete-Count 1881 Census

All 12,640,000 men in the census

  • 28,474 men in 1851 and 1881
  • 16,829 sons in 1851
  • 9,477 HH heads in 1851

20,269 sons in 1881

  • +

Complete-Count 1901 Census

8,677 sons in 1901

linked data three generations 1851 1901
Linked Data: Three Generations, 1851 – 1901
  • End result: 54,218 males covering three generations from 1851 to 1901
    • Inter-generational mobility, 1851–1881
      • 12,647 father/son pairs where son < 20 years old in 1851
      • Average age of father in 1851 = 41.5 years
      • Average age of son in 1881 = 38.0 years
    • Intra-generational mobility, 1851–1881
      • 7,790 males aged 20-35 in 1851, 50-65 in 1881
    • Inter-generational mobility, 1881–1901
      • 4,071 father/son pairs where son between 10-19 years old in 1881
      • Average age of father in 1881 = 46.7 years
      • Average age of son in 1901 = 33.9 years
    • Mobility over three generations, 1851–1881–1901
      • 5,763 grandfather/father/son sets
      • Average age of grandfather in 1851 = 45.8 years
      • Average age of father in 1881 = 45.3 years
      • Average age of son in 1901 = 32.1 years
slide13
Intergenerational Mobility: Controlling for Life Cycle EffectsLinked Census Data vs Marriage Registry Data
comparing mobility across tables
Comparing Mobility Across Tables
  • Need a single metric that
    • summarizes difference in mobility across two tables
    • is not affected by differences in occupation structure across tables
    • can be tested for statistical significance
  • Altham (1970): For two r s tables,
  • measures how far the association between rows and columns in table P departs from the association between rows and columns in table Q.
  • A simple likelihood-ratio 2 statistic G2 tests whether the matrix  with elements θij=log(pij /qij) is independent
  • If d(P,Q) > 0 and d(P,I) > d(Q,I), greater mobility in Q (mobility is closer in Q than in P to what we would observe under independence of rows and columns.)
slide15
Intergenerational Mobility: Controlling for Life Cycle EffectsLinked Census Data vs Marriage Registry Data
research questions16
Research Questions
  • 1. What was the rate of intergenerational social mobility in nineteenth-century Britain, controlling for life cycle?

Higher than previously believed:

Total mobility = 48% versus 35%,

Upward mobility = 28% versus 18%

  • 2. How prevalent was intra-generational mobility?

Mobility within work-life was common: 44% changed class from 20s to 50s, 25% of them moving up

  • 3. How does mobility in nineteenth-century Britain compare with other countries then and with Britain in the twentieth century?
  • What is the long-run trend in mobility?
slide17
Intergenerational Mobility from 1851 to the PresentLinked Census Data vs Oxford Mobility Study (1972)
slide18
Intergenerational Mobility from 1851 to the PresentLinked Census Data vs Oxford Mobility Study (1972)
cross country comparison intergenerational mobility in britain and the u s 1850 1881
Cross-Country ComparisonIntergenerational Mobility in Britain and the U.S., 1850-1881
  • From Long and Ferrie (2006)
  • Parallel linked census data set for the U.S.
    • 9,497 males linked from 1850 to 1880 Federal Population Census
    • Same technique: nominal linkage (w/ phonetic variation and age tolerance)
    • More rudimentary, unordered occupational classification scheme necessary:
      • White Collar
      • Farmer
      • Skilled and Semiskilled
      • Unskilled
    • Two data sets explicitly constructed to be compatible
slide20
Inter-Generational Mobility in Britain and the U.S., 1850-1881Parallel Linked Census Data, Long and Ferrie (2006)
inter generational mobility in britain and the u s 1850 1881 parallel linked census data
Inter-Generational Mobility in Britain and the U.S., 1850-1881Parallel Linked Census Data
slide22
Mobility Trends in Britain and the U.S. since 1850Degree of Association between Fathers’ and Sons’ Occupations
research questions23
Research Questions
  • What was the rate of intergenerational social mobility in nineteenth-century Britain, controlling for life cycle?
  • How prevalent was intra-generational mobility?
  • How does mobility in nineteenth-century Britain compare with other countries then and with Britain in the twentieth century?
    • Britain became more mobile from 1880 to 1970
    • Contrasts with Erickson and Goldthorpe’s finding of “constant flux” for many countries since WWII
    • Consistent with Miles finding of upward trend from 1839 to 1914
    • Britain significantly less mobile in 19th century than U.S.
    • But, trends moving in opposite directions: mobility in the U.S. has declined dramatically since the 19th century.
comparing mobility in two economies
Comparing Mobility in Two Economies
  • Simple two-generation human capital model – Solon (1999, 2004), Becker and Tomes (1979, 1986) – implies that the intergenerational transmission of earnings will be greater (i.e. that mobility will be lower) when
    • Heritability of “intrinsic” human capital is greater
    • Human capital investment is more productive
    • Earnings return to human capital is greater
    • Public investment in children’s human capital is less progressive
the belated rise of schooling in england
The (Belated) Rise of Schooling in England
  • Education Act of 1870 establishes school boards; mandatory, government-funded primary education
  • Education Act of 1880: Set minimum leaving age to 10, heavily restricted to 13
  • Leaving age periodically raised thereafter, to age 14 by 1900
more questions
More Questions
  • What explains differences in mobility over time and across countries? Which factors were most important in increasing mobility in Britain since 1850 and in decreasing mobility in the U.S. over that same period?
  • Importance of education: The Scottish experience. Was opportunity truly greater? “Lad of parts”: reality or “self-congratulatory myth”? Newly available Scottish census data will allow construction of similar data set.
  • Micro-level analysis of determinants of mobility
    • Childhood investments in human capital:

Schooling, Birth order, Family size, Mother’s labor market status, Servant(s) in household

    • Geographic mobility