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A Tale of Two Labor Markets: Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in Britain and the U.S. Since 1850

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  • Jason Long
  • Joseph Ferrie

Abstract

The U.S. both tolerates more inequality than Europe and believes its economic mobility is greater than Europe's. These attitudes and beliefs help account for differences in the magnitude of redistribution through taxation and social welfare spending. In fact, the U.S. and Europe had roughly equal rates of inter-generational occupational mobility in the late twentieth century. We extend this comparison into the late nineteenth century using longitudinal data on 23,000 nationally-representative British and U.S. fathers and sons. The U.S. was substantially more mobile then Britain through 1900, so in the experience of those who created the U.S. welfare state in the 1930s, the U.S. had indeed been "exceptional." The margin by which U.S. mobility exceeded British mobility was erased by the 1950s, as U.S. mobility fell compared to its nineteenth century levels.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11253
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    Cited by:

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    2. Joseph P. Ferrie, 2005. "The End of American Exceptionalism? Mobility in the U.S. Since 1850," NBER Working Papers 11324, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2012. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(2), pages 645-677.
    4. Sripad Motiram & Ashish Singh, 2012. "How Close Does the Apple Fall to the Tree?: Some Evidence on Intergenerational Occupational Mobility from India," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2012-101, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    5. Lídia Farré & Francis Vella, 2013. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Gender Role Attitudes and its Implications for Female Labour Force Participation," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 80(318), pages 219-247, April.
    6. Jäntti, Markus & Bratsberg, Bernt & Røed, Knut & Raaum, Oddbjørn & Naylor, Robin & Österbacka, Eva & Bjørklund, Anders & Eriksson, Tor, 2005. "American exceptionalism in a new light: a comparison of intergenerational earnings mobility in the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom and the United States," Memorandum 34/2005, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    7. Sunder, Marco, 2013. "The height gap in 19th-century America: Net-nutritional advantage of the elite increased at the onset of modern economic growth," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 245-258.
    8. Nicoletti, Cheti & Ermisch, John, 2005. "Intergenerational earnings mobility: changes across cohorts in Britain," ISER Working Paper Series 2005-19, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    9. Joseph P. Ferrie, 2005. "History Lessons: The End of American Exceptionalism? Mobility in the United States Since 1850," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(3), pages 199-215, Summer.
    10. Nicoletti Cheti & Ermisch John F, 2008. "Intergenerational Earnings Mobility: Changes across Cohorts in Britain," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(2), pages 1-38, January.
    11. 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.
    12. Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein, 2006. "Path Dependence and Occupations," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series DP-154, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    13. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2010. "Are Risk Aversion and Impatience Related to Cognitive Ability?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 1238-1260, June.
    14. Reddy, A. Bheemeshwar, 2015. "Changes in Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in India: Evidence from National Sample Surveys, 1983–2012," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 329-343.
    15. 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.
    16. Elena Gouskova & Ngina Chiteji & Frank Stafford, 2010. "Pension Participation: Do Parents Transmit Time Preference?," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 138-150, June.
    17. Sripad Motiram & Ashish Singh, 2012. "How close does the apple fall to the tree? Some evidence on intergenerational occupational mobility from India," Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai Working Papers 2012-017, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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