Regression to Mediocrity? Surnames and Social Mobility in England, 1200-2009

54 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2010

See all articles by Gregory Clark

Gregory Clark

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

Date Written: July 31, 2010

Abstract

This paper reports on a preliminary investigation of surname distributions as a measure long run social mobility. In England this suggests two surprising claims. First, England, all the way from the heart of the Middle Ages in 1200 to 2009, is a society without persistent social classes, at least among the descendants of the medieval population. It was a world of complete social mobility, with no permanent over-class and under-class, a world of complete equal opportunity. However, for some recent immigrant groups it may no longer be true. Instead of moving from a world of immobility and class rigidity in medieval England to a world of equal opportunity, we may have moved in the opposite direction. Other modern societies such as the US and Brazil also show sign of persistent social classes. There was, however, a gain from being in the upper class before 1800 in any generation in the form of leaving more copies of your DNA permanently in later populations.

Keywords: Social economic mobility

JEL Classification: J62

Suggested Citation

Clark, Gregory, Regression to Mediocrity? Surnames and Social Mobility in England, 1200-2009 (July 31, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1651904 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1651904

Gregory Clark (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States

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