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Surnames and social mobility: England 1230-2012

Listed author(s):
  • Gregory Clark
  • Neil Cummins

This paper uses a panel of 21,618 people with rare surnames whose wealth is observed at death in England and Wales 1858-2012 to measure the intergeneration elasticity of wealth over five generations. We show, using rare surnames to track families, that wealth is much more persistent over generations than standard one generation estimates would suggest. There is still a significant correlation between the wealth of families five generations apart. We show that this finding can be reconciled with standard estimates of wealth mobility by positing an underlying Markov process of wealth inheritance with an intergenerational elasticity of 0.70-0.75 throughout the years 1858-2012. The enormous social and economic changes of this long period had surprisingly little effect on the strength of inheritance of wealth.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/54515/
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 54515.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2013
Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:54515
Contact details of provider: Postal:
LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.

Phone: +44 (0) 20 7955 7084
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/economicHistory/

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  1. Dearden, Lorraine & Machin, Stephen & Reed, Howard, 1997. "Intergenerational Mobility in Britain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(440), pages 47-66, January.
  2. Gregory Clark & Neil Cummins, 2014. "Surnames and social mobility in England, 1170–2012," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 60593, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Clark, Gregory & Cummins, Neil, 2010. "Malthus to Modernity: England’s First Fertility Transition, 1760-1800," MPRA Paper 25465, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Hertz Tom & Jayasundera Tamara & Piraino Patrizio & Selcuk Sibel & Smith Nicole & Verashchagina Alina, 2008. "The Inheritance of Educational Inequality: International Comparisons and Fifty-Year Trends," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(2), pages 1-48, January.
  5. Jason Long, 2013. "The surprising social mobility of Victorian Britain," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 1-23, February.
  6. John Ermisch & Marco Francesconi & Thomas Siedler, 2006. "Intergenerational Mobility and Marital Sorting," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(513), pages 659-679, 07.
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