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Social mobility during South Africa’s industrial take-off

Author

Listed:
  • Jeanne Cilliers

    () (Department of Economic History, Lund University)

  • Johan Fourie

    () (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)

Abstract

In the absence of historical income or education data, the change in occupations over time can be used as a measure of social mobility. This paper investigates intergenerational occupational mobility using a novel genealogical dataset for settler South Africa, spanning its transition from an agricultural to an early industrialized society (1800–1909). We identify fathers and sons for whom we have complete information on occupational attainment. We follow a two-generation discrete approach to measure changes in both absolute and relative mobility over time. Consistent with qualitative evidence of a shift away from agriculture as the economy’s dominant sector, we see the farming class shrinking and the skilled and professional classes growing. Controlling for changes in the structure of the labor market over time, we find increasing social mobility, becoming significant after the discovery of minerals in 1868. We find this mobility particularly for semi-skilled workers but virtually no improved mobility for sons of farmers. We also test hypotheses related to the mobility prospects for first-born sons and sons of immigrants.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeanne Cilliers & Johan Fourie, 2017. "Social mobility during South Africa’s industrial take-off," Working Papers 04/2017, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers280
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    File URL: https://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2017/wp042017/wp042017.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Intergenerational mobility; social mobility; resource curse; industrialization; colonialism; longitudinal data;

    JEL classification:

    • J60 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - General
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania

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