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History Lessons: The End of American Exceptionalism? Mobility in the United States Since 1850

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  • Joseph P. Ferrie
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    Abstract

    New longitudinal data on individuals linked across nineteenth century U.S. censuses document the geographic and occupational mobility of more than 75,000 Americans from the 1850s to the 1920s. Together with longitudinal data for more recent years, these data make possible for the first time systematic comparisons of mobility over the last 150 years of American economic development, as well as cross-national comparisons for the nineteenth century. The U.S. was a substantially more mobile economy than Britain between 1850 and 1880. But both intergenerational occupational mobility and geographic mobility have declined in the U.S. since the beginning of the twentieth century, leaving much less apparent two aspects of the "American Exceptionalism" noted by nineteenth century observers.

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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/089533005774357824
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

    Volume (Year): 19 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
    Pages: 199-215

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    Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:19:y:2005:i:3:p:199-215

    Note: DOI: 10.1257/089533005774357824
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    Web page: http://www.aeaweb.org/jep/
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    References

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    1. Di Tella, Rafael & Alesina, Alberto & MacCulloch, Robert, 2004. "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?," Scholarly Articles 4553007, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    2. Thomas Piketty, 1994. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," Working papers 94-15, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    3. Nathan D. Grawe & Casey B. Mulligan, 2002. "Economic Interpretations of Intergenerational Correlations," NBER Working Papers 8948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Jason Long & Joseph Ferrie, 2005. "A Tale of Two Labor Markets: Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in Britain and the U.S. Since 1850," NBER Working Papers 11253, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Kim, Sukkoo, 1998. "Economic Integration and Convergence: U.S. Regions, 1840–1987," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 659-683, September.
    6. Thomas F. Cooley & Steven J. DeCanio, 1974. "Varying-Parameter Supply Functions and the Sources of Economic Distress in American Agriculture, 1866-1914," NBER Working Papers 0057, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Gary Solon, 2002. "Cross-Country Differences in Intergenerational Earnings Mobility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 59-66, Summer.
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    Cited by:
    1. Parman, John, 2012. "Good schools make good neighbors: Human capital spillovers in early 20th century agriculture," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 316-334.
    2. Robert Allen, 2013. "American Exceptionalism as a Problem in Global History," Economics Series Working Papers 689, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    3. Lee, Chulhee, 2007. "Military positions and post-service occupational mobility of Union Army veterans, 1861-1880," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 680-698, October.
    4. Jantti, Markus & Jenkins, Stephen P., 2013. "Income mobility," ISER Working Paper Series 2013-23, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    5. John Parman, . "Gender and Intergenerational Mobility: Using Health Outcomes to Compare Intergenerational Mobility Across Gender and Over Time," Working Papers 122, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
    6. Jason Long & Joseph Ferrie, 2013. "Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in Great Britain and the United States since 1850," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(4), pages 1109-37, June.
    7. Bodo Knoll & Nadine Riedel & Eva Schlenker, 2013. "He's a Chip Off the Old Block - The Persistence of Occupational Choices Across Generations," CESifo Working Paper Series 4428, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Olivetti, Claudia & Paserman, M. Daniele, 2013. "In the Name of the Son (and the Daughter): Intergenerational Mobility in the United States, 1850-1930," CEPR Discussion Papers 9372, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Azam, Mehtabul, 2013. "Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in India," IZA Discussion Papers 7608, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Steven Ruggles, 2014. "Big Microdata for Population Research," Demography, Springer, vol. 51(1), pages 287-297, February.
    11. Alberto Palloni, 2006. "Reproducing inequalities: Luck, wallets, and the enduring effects of childhood health," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(4), pages 587-615, November.
    12. Jérôme Bourdieu & Joseph Ferrie & Lionel Kesztenbaum, 2006. "Vive la différence » ? Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in France and the U.S. in the 19th and 20th Centuries," Documents de recherche 06-10, Centre d'Études des Politiques Économiques (EPEE), Université d'Evry Val d'Essonne.
    13. Lee, Chulhee, 2012. "Military service and economic mobility: Evidence from the American civil war," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 367-379.
    14. Moscarini, Giuseppe & Thomsson, Kaj, 2006. "Occupational and Job Mobility in the US," Working Papers 19, Yale University, Department of Economics.

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