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

  • Joseph P. Ferrie
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    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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    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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    1. Ganzeboom, H.B.G. & de Graaf, P.M. & Treiman, D.J. & de Leeuw, J., 1992. "A standard international socio-economic index of occupational status," WORC Paper 85970031-d601-46e3-befb-1, Tilburg University, Work and Organization Research Centre.
    2. Gary Solon, 2002. "Cross-Country Differences in Intergenerational Earnings Mobility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 59-66, Summer.
    3. Thomas Piketty, 1994. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," Working papers 94-15, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2001. "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?," NBER Working Papers 8198, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Nathan D. Grawe & Casey B. Mulligan, 2002. "Economic Interpretations of Intergenerational Correlations," NBER Working Papers 8948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
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