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Inequality and social mobility in the Era of the Industrial Revolution

Clark, Gregory and Cummins, Neil (2014) Inequality and social mobility in the Era of the Industrial Revolution. In: Floud, Roderick, Humphries, Jane and Johnson, Paul, (eds.) The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain. Volume 1: Industrialisation, 1700–1870. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 211-236. ISBN 9781107631434

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This chapter examines the effects of the Industrial Revolution on social mobility rates and inequality, as England experienced the onset of modern economic growth. It has previously been impossible to measure social mobility rates before the end of the Industrial Revolution, because population censuses showing family relationships only become available in 1851. However, we show how, using information on surname distributions, intergenerational social mobility rates back to 1700 can be calculated. These show that social mobility rates have always been low in England and were surprisingly unaffected by the Industrial Revolution. Modern growth did not speed up the process of intergenerational mobility. In addition we show that the Industrial Revolution era was probably one of declining inequality in England. While we do not have information on the individual distribution of income and wealth, we can show that the share of wages in national income increased in Industrial Revolution England. Since wages are distributed in all societies much more equally than income from property, this would have been a force for greater income equality within industrial society.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Cambridge University Press
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2015 14:24
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2021 00:04

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