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Surnames and social mobility in England, 1170–2012

Clark, Gregory and Cummins, Neil (2014) Surnames and social mobility in England, 1170–2012. Human Nature, 25 (4). pp. 517-537. ISSN 1045-6767

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s12110-014-9219-y


Using educational status in England from 1170 to 2012, we show that the rate of social mobility in any society can be estimated from knowledge of just two facts: the distribution over time of surnames in the society and the distribution of surnames among an elite or underclass. Such surname measures reveal that the typical estimate of parent–child correlations in socioeconomic measures in the range of 0.2–0.6 are misleading about rates of overall social mobility. Measuring education status through Oxbridge attendance suggests a generalized intergenerational correlation in status in the range of 0.70–0.90. Social status is more strongly inherited even than height. This correlation is unchanged over centuries. Social mobility in England in 2012 was little greater than in preindustrial times. Thus there are indications of an underlying social physics surprisingly immune to government intervention.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2015 12:14
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 02:55

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