Intergenerational Mobility in Britain, Canada, and the United States, 1850-1911: New Evidence from Linked Census Data

Evan Roberts, University of Minnesota
Peter Baskerville, University of Alberta
Lisa Dillon, Université de Montréal
Kris Inwood, University of Guelph
Steven Ruggles, University of Minnesota
Kevin Schürer, University of Leicester

Comparisons of social mobility between North America and Europe have interested social scientists for centuries. This paper uses new data from the North Atlantic Population Project to construct linked samples from the 1850s to 1880s and 1880s to 1910s in Canada, Great Britain, and the United States, and provide a new comparative perspective on social mobility. The samples were constructed identically for all countries. Including two generations allows us to measure changes in inter-generational mobility across generations. We measure social mobility by comparing the occupations and social classes of men at age 30-45 who were first observed living with their father 30 years earlier. We find that social mobility in North America, both the United States and Canada, was higher than in Great Britain. Much of this fluidity in occupations between generations was due to agricultural opportunities on the frontier. As land availability decreased around 1900, social mobility declined.

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Presented in Session 231: Inequality of Opportunity