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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:

    1. Ronen Bar-El & Teresa García-Muñoz & Shoshana Neuman & Yossef Tobol, 2013. "The evolution of secularization: cultural transmission, religion and fertility—theory, simulations and evidence," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(3), pages 1129-1174, July.
    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. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.

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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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