Social Mobility

There’s been talk of a new paper by Gregory Clark measuring social mobility in England over 200 years by using rare surnames (“Are there Ruling Classes? Surnames and Social Mobility in England, 1800-2011“). Here is a graph from the paper:

The abstract:

Using rare surnames we track the socio-economic status of descendants of a sample of English rich and poor in 1800, until 2011. We measure social status through wealth, education, occupation, and age at death. Our method allows unbiased estimates of mobility rates. Paradoxically, we find two things. Mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated. There is considerable persistence of status, even after 200 years. But there is convergence with each generation. The 1800 underclass has already attained mediocrity. And the 1800 upper class will eventually dissolve into the mass of society, though perhaps not for another 300 years, or longer.


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