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Intergenerational mobility in England, 1858-2012. Wealth, surnames, and social mobility

Authors
Publisher
Department of Economic History, The London School of Economics and Political Science
Publication Date
Keywords
  • Hc Economic History And Conditions
  • Hn Social History And Conditions. Social Problems. Social Reform
Disciplines
  • Economics

Abstract

This paper uses a panel of 21,618 people with rare surnames whose wealth is observed at death in England and Wales 1858-2012 to measure the intergeneration elasticity of wealth over five generations. We show, using rare surnames to track families, that wealth is much more persistent over generations than standard one generation estimates would suggest. There is still a significant correlation between the wealth of families five generations apart. We show that this finding can be reconciled with standard estimates of wealth mobility by positing an underlying Markov process of wealth inheritance with an intergenerational elasticity of 0.70-0.75 throughout the years 1858-2012. The enormous social and economic changes of this long period had surprisingly little effect on the strength of inheritance of wealth.

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