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North and South: Social Mobility and Welfare Spending in Preindustrial England


  • Nina Boberg-Fazlic

    () (University of Copenhagen)

  • Paul Sharp

    () (University of Southern Denmark)


In a recent paper Ferrie and Long (2012) argue that historically high levels of social mobility can lead to a culture of non-acceptance of redistribution and welfare provision. We apply this hypothesis to England, where it has been noted that, at least historically speaking, the North and the South of England were culturally very different. King (2000) argues that the North exhibited a ‘harsh culture of making do’ whereas the South exhibited a ‘culture of dependency’. We put these two propositions together and study occupational mobility in North- and South-England using the Cambridge Group data from the years 1550-1850. We find that, in the North, lower poor relief expenditures go hand-in-hand with higher levels of social mobility. In the South, on the other hand, occupational status is heavily determined by the father’s occupation. We also study intergenerational inheritance of pauperism, showing that the probability of becoming a pauper was heavily determined by a family history of pauperism in the South. We add to the literature by providing further evidence for a link between historical social mobility and the development of a welfare state.

Suggested Citation

  • Nina Boberg-Fazlic & Paul Sharp, 2013. "North and South: Social Mobility and Welfare Spending in Preindustrial England," Working Papers 0037, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  • Handle: RePEc:hes:wpaper:0037

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Boberg-Fazlic, Nina & Sharp, Paul & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2011. "Survival of the richest? Social status, fertility and social mobility in England 1541-1824," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 365-392, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Modalsli, Jørgen, 2015. "Estimating occupational mobility with covariates," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 77-80.
    2. Jørgen Modalsli, 2017. "Intergenerational Mobility in Norway, 1865–2011," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 119(1), pages 34-71, January.
    3. Jørgen Modalsli, 2016. "Multigenerational persistence. Evidence from 146 years of administrative data," Discussion Papers 850, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    4. repec:wly:econjl:v:127:y:2017:i:599:p:50-83 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Nina Boberg‐Fazlić & Paul Sharp, 2017. "Does Welfare Spending Crowd Out Charitable Activity? Evidence from Historical England Under the Poor Laws," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(599), pages 50-83, February.
    6. Santiago Caballero, Carlos, 2018. "Social mobility in nineteenth century Spain : Valencia, 1841-1870," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH 27620, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.

    More about this item


    England; Poor Laws; social mobility; welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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