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Intergenerational transmission of social inequality

Are societies more open and more fluid than before and if so, why and how quickly did this happen? A study of intergenerational social mobility over the past 300 years sought to answer these questions.

Industrial Technologies

Social mobility patterns will differ significantly and meaningfully over time and between regions. Nevertheless, even the most profound contemporary studies of social mobility have managed only short time span surveys. Thus institutional variation has only partly been considered. Historical variance has usually been absent or considered less important. TOWARDSOPENSOCIETIES (Towards Open Societies: Trends, Variations and Driving Forces of Intergenerational Social Mobility in Europe over the Past Three Centuries) is an EU-funded project used a long time horizon. It measured institutional variation at the regional level in historical societies. As such, it allowed for the capture of slow change, better testing for changes that are non-linear and connections of observed changes to institutional determinants. In an international collaboration, millions of historical marriage and occupational records of two generations spanning a dozen countries from 1680-1940 were collected. The datasets were standardized, compared and coded and can now be used by historical databases around the globe and by scholars in various fields of research. Methods in the analysis had not been often applied to historical material. Now the existence of long-term increase in openness in many countries can be demonstrated. Also evident is non-monotonous, short-lived increase in the era of early industrialisation and non-uniformity across nations.


Social mobility patterns, institutional variation, historical variance, historical databases

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