Like Father Like Son? Intergenerational Immobility in England, 1851-1911

Abstract: This paper uses a linked sample of between 67,000 and 160,000 father-son pairs in 1851-1911 to provide revised estimates of intergenerational occupational mobility in England. After correcting for classical measurement error using instrumental variables, I find that conventional estimates of intergenerational elasticities could severely underestimate the extent of father-son association in socioeconomic status. Instrumenting one measure of the father’s outcome with a second measure of the father’s outcome raises the intergenerational elasticities (β) of occupational status from 0.4 to 0.6-0.7. Victorian England was therefore a society of limited social mobility. The implications of my results for long-run evolution and international comparisons of social mobility in England are discussed.

Forthcoming at the Journal of Economic History.

Previous version available as LSE Economic History Working Paper No. 349.

Grim Up North? Regional Intergenerational Mobility in England, 1881-1911

Abstract: This paper uses a census-linked dataset of between 160,000 to 600,000 father-son pairs to estimate differences in relative and absolute mobility of occupational status across all regions in England at the end of the nineteenth century. The results show that there is already a North-South divide in terms of intergenerational mobility in late-Victorian England. This is particularly evident when looking at rank-based measures of relative mobility and absolute mobility. This is consistent to what we observe today for England, where the South (specifically London and the South East) outperforms the rest of the country. In addition, mobility patterns exhibit clear differences depending on migration history and origins. Migrants from the North are much more mobile than those that remained in the North, while the same pattern is not observed for Southern migrants and non-migrants. Inequality, however, is not strongly correlated with immobility.

Climbing the Ladder: Life-Course Occupational Mobility in England, 1851-1911

Abstract: Existing studies in social mobility research often focus solely on the intergenerational aspect while largely ignoring another important channel for mobility – mobility over the life course. Recent developments in the digitisation of individual-level census data and automated record linkage techniques opens up many possibilities for studies of historical social mobility. Using a linked sample of approximately 131,000 men aged 20-30 at the start of the period 1851-1881, and 233,000 men for the period 1881-1911, this paper estimates the levels of life-course (intragenerational) mobility in England between 1851 and 1911, and how they changed over time. By regressing final occupations on initial occupations, this paper finds an association (β) of initial and final occupational status of between 0.61 to 0.65 over a 30-year career. Life-course mobility was possible but limited for the Victorians. England during this period appears to be far from an open society.