Social Mobility in the Long Run: A Temporal Analysis of China from 1300 to 1900

78 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2019 Last revised: 8 Apr 2019

See all articles by Carol H. Shiue

Carol H. Shiue

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: March 2019

Abstract

Abstract Does inequality within the family play a significant role in explaining mobility patterns from one generation to the next? This paper exploits temporal changes in mobility over approximately 20 generations and six centuries to shed light on the sources of social mobility. Socioeconomic data on status and links at the individual level come from historical biographies of seven extended families (dynasties as based on the male surname) who lived in one region in China. The analysis documents a trend towards greater social mobility over time. Times of greater inequality between fathers, especially educational inequality, are times of lower social mobility. Moreover, geographic location strengthens the role of inequality for social mobility. Decomposing inequality into between versus within-dynasty components, however, shows that not all inequality is associated with persistence. While inequality between dynasties is conducive to persistence, inequality within the dynasty is associated with higher mobility, and this is true both upward and downward. Furthermore, among members of even closer kin in the dynasty, the positive relationship of inequality and mobility is stronger still. The results are robust to alternative measures of mobility, inequality, and definitions of status.

JEL Classification: D31, J62, N35

Suggested Citation

Shiue, Carol Hua, Social Mobility in the Long Run: A Temporal Analysis of China from 1300 to 1900 (March 2019). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP13589. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3354456

Carol Hua Shiue (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics ( email )

Campus Box 256
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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