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Was There Ever a Ruling Class? A Proposal for the study of 800 Years of Social Mobility

Gregory Clark ()

No 2009/04, Working Papers in Economic History from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Department of Economic Analysis (Economic Theory and Economic History)

Abstract: This reports on a preliminary investigation of surnames 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 1250 to at least 1860, was a society without persistent social classes. It was a world of social mobility, with no permanent over-class and under-class, a world of complete equal opportunity. There was, however, a gain from being in the upper class in any generation in the form of leaving more copies of your DNA permanently in later populations. Second, signs of persistent social classes have only emerged in societies like England and the United States in recent years. Instead of moving from a world of immobility and class rigidity to a world of equal opportunity, we have moved in the opposite direction.

Keywords: Social Mobility; Economic Mobility; History of Social Class; History of Economic Opportunity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D31 J62 N30 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his and nep-mic
Date: 2009-07
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