Sharp declines in wealth-concentration occurred across Europe and the US during the 20th century. But this stylized fact is based on declared wealth. It is possible that today the richest are not less rich but rather that they are hiding much of their wealth. This paper proposes a method to measure this hidden wealth, in any form. In England, 1920-1992, elites are concealing 20-32% of their wealth. Among dynasties, hidden wealth, independent of declared wealth, predicts appearance in the Offshore Leaks Database of 2013-6, house values in 1999, and Oxbridge attendance, 1990-2016. Accounting for hidden wealth eliminates one-third of the observed decline of top 10% wealth-share over the past century.
This paper analyses a newly constructed individual level dataset of every English death and probate from 1892-2016. The estimated top wealth shares match closely existing estimates. However, this analysis clearly shows that the 20th century's `Great Equalization' of wealth stalled in mid-century. The probate rate, which captures the proportion of English with any significant wealth at death rose from 10% in the 1890s to 40% by 1950 and has stagnated to 2016. Despite the large declines in the wealth share of the top 1%, from 73% to 20%, the median English person died with almost nothing throughout. All changes in inequality after 1950 involve a reshuffling of wealth within the top 30%. Further, I find that a log-linear distribution fits the empirical data better than a Pareto power law. Finally, I show that the top wealth shares are increasingly and systematically male as one ascends in wealth, 1892-1992, but this has equalized over the 20th century.
Using evidence from the accident of twin births we show that for four Western European pre-industrial population samples – England 1538-1826, England 1730-1879, France 1670-1789 and Quebec, 1621-1835 – there was no evidence of control of fertility within marriage. If a twin was born to a family in any of these populations, average family size increased by 1 compared to families with a singleton birth at the same parity and mother age, with no reduction of subsequent fertility. Twin births also show no differential effect on fertility when they occur at high, as opposed to low, parities. This is in contrast to populations where fertility is known to have been controlled by at least some families, such as England, 1900-49. There a twin birth increased average births per family by significantly less than 1.
The North of England is now poorer and less educated than the South. Using complete population data at the surname level 1837-2006, and a large sample of individuals born 1780- 1929, this paper shows two things. First an important element in the decline of the North was selective outmigration of those with education and talent. This migration is evident even for the generation born 1780-1809, and continued to those born 1900-1929. There was also selective migration to the South of those with education and talent coming from outside England -, Scottish, Pakistanis and others. However the migration of talent to the South created no significant external benefits to workers in the South, as would be predicted by the doctrines of the New Economic Geography. Surnames concentrated in the North do not show any national disadvantage in education, occupation or wealth. Also for workers of a given education or social background there is at most a very modest locational disadvantage associated with being born in the North. Thus there will be no efficiency gain from facilitating further migration south from the North, or from further efforts to bolster the economy of the North through government aid.
In recent theorizing, modern economic growth was created by substituting child quality for quantity. However evidence for any substantial tradeoff of child quality for quantity is minimal. In England the Industrial Revolution occurred in a period of substantial human capital investment, but no fertility control, huge random variation in family sizes, and uncorrelated family size and parent quality. Yet family size variation had minor effects on educational attainment, occupational status, and child health, for both prosperous and poor families. More children did substantially reduce wealth at death, but only for rich families with inherited wealth. In families with no parental wealth, wealth at death was unaffected by family size. Even for richer families the wealth effect substantially diminishes by the grandchild generation. There is no significant quality-quantity tradeoff in human capital even well into the modern growth era. Growth theory must proceed in other directions.
I analyse the age at death of 121,524 European nobles from 800 to 1800. Adult Lifespan is around 50 from 800 to 1400, rises after 1400 to 55 and rises again after 1650. Violent deaths collapse among European nobility in the 1500s. Plague kills noble women at a higher rate than men. Median age at death is always lower in the East and South of the continent. This pattern has existed since 1000. These findings have implications for theories that seek to explain the rise of the West.
This article uses individual records of 930,000 burials and 630,000 baptisms to reconstruct the spatial and temporal patterns of birth and death in London from 1560 to 1665. The plagues of 1563, 1603, 1625, and 1665 appear of roughly equal magnitude, with deaths running at five to six times their usual rate, but the impact on wealthier central parishes falls markedly through time. Tracking the weekly spread of plague, we find no evidence that plague emerged first in the docks, and in many cases elevated mortality emerges first in the poor northern suburbs.
To estimate the share of inherited wealth in total wealth, we employ a sample of English families with rare surnames over the period from 1858 to 2012. By looking at the total wealth of the rare surname families by generation we can estimate an upper bound of the share of inherited wealth relative to all wealth. We find that at maximum only 43% of the capital stock in any generation derived from inheritance, with 57% created de novo.
To what extent do parental characteristics explain child social outcomes? Typically, parent-child correlations in socioeconomic measures are in the range 0.2-0.6. Surname evidence suggests, however, that the intergenerational correlation of overall status is much higher. This paper shows, using educational status in England 1170-2012 as an example, that the true underlying correlation of social status is in the range 0.75-0.85. Social status is more strongly inherited even than height. This correlation is constant over centuries, suggesting an underlying social physics surprisingly immune to government intervention. Social mobility in England in 2012 is little greater than in pre-industrial times. Surname evidence in other countries suggests similarly slow underlying mobility rates
This paper uses a panel of 21,618 people with rare surnames whose wealth is observed at death in England and Wales 1858-2012 to measure the intergeneration elasticity of wealth over five generations. We show, using rare surnames to track families, that wealth is much more persistent over generations than standard one generation estimates would suggest. There is still a significant correlation between the wealth of families five generations apart. We show that this finding can be reconciled with standard estimates of wealth mobility by positing an underlying Markov process of wealth inheritance with an intergenerational elasticity of 0.70-0.75 throughout the years 1858-2012. The enormous social and economic changes of this long period had surprisingly little effect on the strength of inheritance of wealth
This paper explains how surname distributions can be used as a way to measure rates of social mobility in contemporary and historical societies. This allows for estimates of social mobility rates for any population for which we know just two facts: the distribution of surnames overall, and the distribution of surnames among some elite or underclass. Such information exists, for example, for England back to 1300, and for Sweden back to 1700. However surname distributions reveal a different, more fundamental type of mobility than that conventionally estimated. Thus surname estimates also allow for measuring a different aspect of social mobility, the underlying average social status of families, but the aspect that matters for mobility of social groups, and for families across multiple generations.
A key challenge to theories of long-run economic growth has been linking the onset of modern growth with the move to modern fertility limitation. A notable puzzle for these theories is that modern growth in England began around 1780, 100 years before there was seemingly any movement to limit fertility. Here we show that the aggregate data on fertility in England before 1880 conceals significant declines in the fertility of the middle and upper classes earlier. These declines coincide with the Industrial Revolution, and are of the character predicted by some recent theories of long-run growth.
It has been long established that the demographic transition began in eighteenthcentury France, yet there is no consensus on exactly why fertility declined. This analysis links fertility life histories to wealth at death data for four rural villages in France, 1750–1850. For the first time, the wealth–fertility relationship during the onset of the French fertility decline can be analysed. Where fertility is declining, wealth is a powerful predictor of smaller family size. This article argues that fertility decline in France was a result of changing levels of economic inequality, associated with the 1789 Revolution. In cross-section, the data support this hypothesis: where fertility is declining, economic inequality is lower than where fertility is high.
The fertility transition in nineteenth century Europe is one of economic history’s greatest puzzles. There is no consensus in the literature on the causes of this ‘fertility revolution’. This thesis re-examines the economic correlates of the fertility decline through the analysis of two new datasets from England and France. For the first time, the relationship between wealth and fertility can be studied over the period of the fertility transition. Clear patterns are discovered, namely a strong positive relationship pre-transition which switches to a strongly negative relationship during the onset of the transition. Family limitation is initiated by the richest segments of society. I then introduce a simple model which links fertility and social mobility to levels of economic inequality. I argue that parents are motivated by relative status concerns and the fertility transition is a response to changes in the environment for social mobility, where increased mobility becomes obtainable through fertility limitation. This hypothesis is tested with the new micro data in England and France. Fertility decline is strongly associated with decreased levels of inequality and increased levels of social mobility.
The modern world is the product of two momentous changes: the Industrial Revolution of 1800, which brought sustained efficiency advances in economies, and the Demographic Transition of 1900, which channeled those efficiency advances mainly into increased income per capita, instead of increases in population. How these revolutions were connected has been a persistent unsolved puzzle in the history of growth. The Demographic Transition was achieved without any improvement in contraceptive technologies from those of 1800 and earlier. It was a possibility for all preindustrial societies. Why did it occur only after the Industrial Revolution?