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Am Econ Rev. 2013 Aug;103(5):2003-2020.

INTERGENERATIONAL OCCUPATIONAL MOBILITY IN BRITAIN AND THE U.S. SINCE 1850: COMMENT.

Author information

1
Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, 426 Thompson Street, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48106.

Abstract

Using historical census and survey data, Long and Ferrie (forthcoming) found a significant decline in social mobility in the United States from 1880 to 1973. We present two critiques of the Long-Ferrie study. First, the data quality of the Long-Ferrie study is more limiting than the authors acknowledge. Second, and more critically, they applied a method ill-suited for measuring social mobility of farmers in a comparative study between 1880 and 1973, a period in which the proportion of farmers dramatically declined in the U.S. We show that Long and Ferrie's main conclusion is all driven by this misleading result for farmers.

KEYWORDS:

Census data; Social mobility; U.S. history

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