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The End of American Exceptionalism? Mobility in the U.S. Since 1850

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  • Joseph P. Ferrie

Abstract

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 %u201CAmerican Exceptionalism%u201D noted by nineteenth century observers.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11324
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    1. Thomas Piketty, 1995. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 551-584.
    2. Alesina, Alberto & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2004. "Inequality and happiness: are Europeans and Americans different?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2009-2042, August.
    3. Susan E. Mayer & Leonard M. Lopoo, 2005. "Has the Intergenerational Transmission of Economic Status Changed?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(1).
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Gary Solon, 2002. "Cross-Country Differences in Intergenerational Earnings Mobility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 59-66, Summer.
    7. Bjorklund, Anders & Jantti, Markus, 1997. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in Sweden Compared to the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 1009-1018, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Carmen Aina & Cheti Nicoletti, 2014. "The intergenerational transmission of liberal professions: nepotism versus abilities," Discussion Papers 14/14, Department of Economics, University of York.
    2. Modalsli, Jørgen, 2015. "Estimating occupational mobility with covariates," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 77-80.
    3. Pingle, Jonathan F., 2007. "A note on measuring internal migration in the United States," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 38-42, January.
    4. Jørgen Modalsli, 2017. "Intergenerational Mobility in Norway, 1865–2011," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 119(1), pages 34-71, January.
    5. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Platt Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2012. "Europe's Tired, Poor, Huddled Masses: Self-Selection and Economic Outcomes in the Age of Mass Migration," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 1832-1856, August.
    6. Salisbury, Laura, 2014. "Selective migration, wages, and occupational mobility in nineteenth century America," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 40-63.
    7. Akbulut-Yuksel, Mevlude & Kugler, Adriana, 2016. "Intergenerational Persistence of Health in the U.S.: Do Immigrants Get Healthier as They Assimilate?," IZA Discussion Papers 9728, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Joan Costa-i-Font & Frank Cowell & Belén Saénz de Miera Juárez, 2017. "Does Insurance Expansion Alter Health Inequality and Mobility? Evidence from the Mexican Seguro Popular," CESifo Working Paper Series 6788, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Nicolas Ziebarth, 2011. "Are China and India Backwards? Evidence from the 19th Century U.S. Census of Manufactures," 2011 Meeting Papers 138, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. Daniel Aaronson & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2005. "Intergenerational economic mobility in the U.S., 1940 to 2000," Working Paper Series WP-05-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    11. Ofer Malamud & Abigail Wozniak, 2012. "The Impact of College on Migration: Evidence from the Vietnam Generation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(4), pages 913-950.

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    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General

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