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The End of American Exceptionalism? Mobility in the U.S. 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 %u201CAmerican Exceptionalism%u201D noted by nineteenth century observers.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11324.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11324.

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    Date of creation: May 2005
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    Publication status: published as Ferrie, Joseph P. "History Lessons: The End Of American Exceptionalism? Mobility In The United States Since 1850," Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2005, v19(3,Summer), 199-215.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11324

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    1. Thomas Piketty, 1994. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," Working papers 94-15, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2001. "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1938, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    3. 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.
    4. Gary Solon, 2002. "Cross-Country Differences in Intergenerational Earnings Mobility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 59-66, Summer.
    5. Susan E. Mayer & Leonard Michael Lopoo, 2001. "Has the Intergenerational Transmission of Economic Status Changed?," JCPR Working Papers 227, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    6. Bjorklund, Anders & Jantti, Markus, 1997. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in Sweden Compared to the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 1009-18, December.
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    Cited by:
    1. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2010. "Europe's Tired, Poor, Huddled Masses: Self-Selection and Economic Outcomes in the Age of Mass Migration," Discussion Papers 09-029, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    2. Daniel Aaronson & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2005. "Intergenerational economic mobility in the U.S., 1940 to 2000," Working Paper Series WP-05-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    3. Pingle, Jonathan F., 2007. "A note on measuring internal migration in the United States," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 38-42, January.
    4. Nicolas Ziebarth, 2011. "Are China and India Backwards? Evidence from the 19th Century U.S. Census of Manufactures," 2011 Meeting Papers 138, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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