Results for “clark mobility”
11 found

Greg Clark visits Australia and finds high rates of status persistence

The co-authors on this paper (pdf) are Andrew Leigh and Mike Pottenger, here is the abstract:

The paper estimates long run social mobility in Australia 1870–2017 tracking the status of rare surnames. The status information includes occupations from electoral rolls 1903–1980, and records of degrees awarded by Melbourne and Sydney universities 1852–2017. Status persistence was strong throughout, with an intergenerational correlation of 0.7–0.8, and no change over time. Notwithstanding egalitarian norms, high immigration and a well-targeted social safety net, Australian long-run social mobility rates are low. Despite evidence on conventional measures that Australia has higher rates of social mobility than the UK or USA (Mendolia and Siminski, 2016), status persistence for surnames is as high as that in England or the USA. Mobility rates are also just as low if we look just at mobility within descendants of UK immigrants, so ethnic effects explain none of the immobility.

Social mobility is indeed difficult to pull off.  Hat tip goes to Ben Southwood.

How universal are rates of social mobility across time and societies?

Gary Solon, in a new survey paper, takes issue with the earlier results of Greg Clark, which had suggested social mobility was roughly constant across a wide spectrum of cases.  Solon writes:

…the results reported by Clark do not reflect a universal law of social mobility.  Quite to the contrary, other studies based on group-average data, even surnames data, frequently produce intergenerational coefficient estimates much smaller than Clark’s.

A second testable prediction of Clark’s hypothesis…is that instrumental variables (IV) estimation of the regression of son’s log earnings on father’s log earnings should yield a coefficient estimate in the 0.7-0.8 range if father’s long earnings are instrumented with grandfather’s log earnings.  When Lindahl et al, estimated that regression with their data from Malmo, Sweden, the IV coefficient estimate was 0.15, considerably higher than their ordinary least squares (OLS) estimate of 0.303.  They obtained a remarkably similar comparison of IV and OLS estimates when they used years of education instead of log earnings as the status measure.  The pattern of IV estimates exceeding OLS estimates is consistent with Clark’s general story about measurement error in particular indicators as proxies for social status.  It is equally consistent with all the alternative stories listed in section II for why grandparental status may not be “excludable” from a multigenerational regression.  What the results are not consistent with is a universal law of social mobility in which the intergenerational coefficient is always 0.7 or more…

A third testable prediction…is that using an omnibus index that combines multiple indicators of social status should make the intergenerational coefficient estimate “much closer to that of the underlying latent variable.”  [But]…The resulting estimate was not “much closer” to the 0.7-0.8 range.

In sum, when Clark’s hypothesis is subjected to empirical tests, it does not fare so well.

Here is an ungated version.

Does rigid mobility imply low tax elasticities?

In an excellent review essay on Greg Clark, Arnold Kling says maybe so:

On the other hand, his findings argue against the need to create strong incentives to succeed. If some people are genetically oriented toward success, then they do not need lower tax rates to spur them on. Such people would be expected to succeed regardless. The ideal society implicit in Clark’s view is one in which the role of government is to ameliorate, rather than attempt to fix, the unequal distribution of incomes. As Clark puts it,

“If social position is largely a product of the blind inheritance of talent, combined with a dose of pure chance, why would we want to multiply the rewards to the lottery winners? Nordic societies seem to offer a good model of how to minimize the disparities in life outcomes stemming from inherited social position without major economic costs. (page 15)”

*The Son Also Rises* and social mobility in India

That is the new Greg Clark book and yes it is an event and yes you should buy it. Here is one passage I found of interest:

There are surprisingly few studies of social mobility in India.  Thus the two recent international surveys of social mobility…do not include India.  However, a recent study estimated the Indian intergeneration income correlation to be 0.58, making social mobility rates in India among the world’s lowest.

The estimated persistence rate for income in India of 0.58, however, is not much higher than those for the United Kingdom (0.5) or the United States (0.47).  The share of income variance in the next generation attributable to inheritance from parents in India is still only (0.58)squared, or 0.34.  This suggests that even in India, an individual’s position in the income ranks is not primarily derived from inheritance.  Thus, by conventional estimates, modern India has become a society of rapid social mobility, where three to four generations might see the elimination of all traces of millennia-old patterns of inequality.

You can buy the book here.  Here is a previous MR post on the book, there will be more to come.

How much does social mobility ever change?

Here is Dylan Matthews interviewing Gregory Clark about his new book The Son also Rises:

Another remarkable feature of the surname data is how seemingly impervious social mobility rates are to government interventions. In all societies, what seems to matter is just who your parents are. At the extreme, we see in modern Sweden an extensive system of public education and social support. Yet underlying mobility rates are no higher in modern Sweden than in pre-industrial Sweden or medieval England.

There was one case where government interventions did seem to promote mobility, which was in Bengal, in India. There the strict quota system in educational institutions had benefited significantly people with surnames associated with the Scheduled Castes.

But the bizarre element here is that these quotas did not help those truly at the bottom of the social ladder. Instead, the benefits went to families of average social status whom the British had mistakenly classified as Scheduled Caste. These families have now become a new elite. The truly disadvantaged, such as the large Muslim community, have been correspondingly further burdened by being excluded from these quotas.

Interestingly, in China, the extreme social intervention represented by the Communist Revolution of 1949, which included executing large numbers of members of the old upper class, has not resulted in much of an increase in social mobility. Surnames of high status in the Imperial and Republican era continue to be overrepresented among modern elites, including Communist Party officials.

The families that have high social competence, whatever the social system is, typically find their way to the top of the social ladder.

The interview is interesting throughout. And you will of course note the new Chetty results — created with entirely different methods and data — showing economic mobility has not much changed in the United States for decades.

For the initial pointer I thank Samir Varma.

Surnames and the laws of social mobility

Here is some new work by Gregory Clark (pdf):

What is the true rate of social mobility? Modern one-generation studies suggest considerable regression to the mean for all measures of status – wealth, income, occupation and education across a variety of societies. The β that links status across generations is in the order of 0.2-0.5. In that case inherited surnames will quickly lose any information about social status. Using surnames this paper looks at social mobility rates across many generations in England 1086-2011, Sweden, 1700-2011, the USA 1650-2011, India, 1870-2011, Japan, 1870-2011, and China and Taiwan 1700-2011. The underlying β for long-run social mobility is around 0.75, and is remarkably similar across societies and epochs. This implies that compete regression to the mean for elites takes 15 or more generations.

Here is NPR coverage:

“If I just know that you share a rare surname with someone who was wealthy in 1800, I can predict now that you’re nine times more likely to attend Oxford or Cambridge. You’re going to live two years longer than an average person in England. You’re going to have more wealth. You’re more likely to be a doctor. You’re more likely to be an attorney,” Clark says.

Dylan Matthews offers some charts.  For the pointer I thank Fred Rossoff.

The Son Also Rises

Economist and Australian politician Andrew Leigh has a very informative review of Gregory Clark’s The Son Also Rises:

If you want to know who made up Australia’s elite in the nineteenth century, a useful place to look is the Australian Dictionary of Biography. In its many volumes, you’ll find business leaders, scientists, media barons and politicians who have featured among the upper echelons of Australian society.

Now, suppose we take the first cohort of significant Australians – those who died before 1880 – and identify those with unusual surnames like Ebden or Maconochie. People with those names were overrepresented among the elite in the nineteenth century. Are they still at the top of society, or are they mixed through?

The answer to this question will depend on the level of social mobility we have in Australia.

…For Australia, it turns out that if we look at the register of modern-day medical practitioners, we find the privileged names of the nineteenth century overrepresented by a factor of nearly three. In other words, if your ancestor was at the top of Australian society six generations ago, you are three times more likely to be a doctor today than the average Australian.

…if we accept Gregory Clark’s methodology, his results imply a very static society. For Britain, the United States, India, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Chile and even Sweden, he concludes that the intergenerational elasticity is between 0.7 and 0.9. This would mean that social status is at least as hereditable as height. It suggests that while the ruling class and the underclass are not permanent, they are extremely long-lasting. Erasing privilege takes not two or three generations, but ten to fifteen generations.

Read the whole thing.

Assorted links

1. Do some of Baltimore’s homeless people feel safer in the woods?

2. My dialogue with Megan McArdle is rescheduled for this Wednesday at AEI.

3. In which way should we recognize Japanese kamikaze pilots?  And the new Murakami novel will be in English this August.

4.  “And there are no good guys in the Argentine story.”

5. The East-West divide in Ukraine politics may be overstated.  And why has political stability been lower than predicted (until very recent times perhaps)?

6. Greg Clark on how social mobility is slower than we think.

If your parents died early, will you die early too?

But in fact the correlation of longevity between individual parents and children is very low.  For the people dying in England in the period 1858-2012 with the rare surnames used in chapter 4, we can measure the correlation of longevity between fathers and sons for more than four thousand sons surviving until at least age 21.  That correlation is only 0.13.  If we take the average of both parents’ ages at death, that correlation increases to 0.26.  But it is still low.  In reality, your age at death is not strongly predictable from your parents’ age at death.  All those saving more for retirement simply because both parents are fit, healthy, and in their nineties should stop immediately.  Your expected additional longevity relative to the average is only three years.

That is from Greg Clark’s new and noteworthy The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility.  Here is Kevin Drum on the book.

A Farewell to Alms, through p.272

…comes again on the question of science.  He points out correctly that most of the major technological innovators did not get much for their efforts.  Clark therefore does not see the late 18th century or early 19th century as giving special incentives for science.  I agree as far as he goes, but I view the incentives for science more broadly.

Core Europe, starting in late medieval times, developed a new and still poorly understood organizational technology.  This was, very roughly, the ability to work in groups, cumulate technologies and advances, and learn from each other in competitive environments.  Most notably, this new technology led the Florentine and Venetian Renaissances, especially in the visual arts.  But there was more.  The rise of printing.  The rise of classical music, starting in 1685 or whenever.  The rise of early modern philosophy.  Europe goes crazy with inventiveness, albeit in splats and bursts.  (Clark’s own chapter 12 gives good evidence for this tendency, though it will play a less central role in his version of the story.)

It is also the case that most of these bursts of inventiveness didn’t do much for the average standard of living.  Yes mastering oil paint technique made Florence richer but not so much.

It just so happened that one of these bursts came in science, technology, and engineering.  And it came in England, mostly for reasons of "national character."  It just so happened that the English burst did more for the standard of living, for reasons of external benefits.  But having had such a burst was not unique to England.  England was just one spoke on a more broadly turning wheel, and a European distribution of bursts was well in place prior to most of the special conditions we might find in England.

England, by the way, also had the literary revolution of the 18th century, and England plus Scotland drove the rise of modern economics.  There is no Chinese Adam Smith and that is because that Europe was pulling decisively ahead in ideas production.  I consider this a fact of great importance whereas for Clark it is a sideshow to some other story.

Most generally, I see the historical problem of growth through the lens of culture — in the sense of the history of the arts, music, and letters — more than through the economic history literature.  I am very taken by Max Weber’s writing on Western music and also his conception of the broader style of Western rationality.  And I see the rise of these organizational improvements as a central — the central? — story of early modern Europe and the move to prosperity.  It simply took a long time to apply these organizational movements to science, and to turn that science into concrete technical advances.

None of this need contradict Clark and indeed you will find parts of this narrative in his book.  But unlike Clark I would not superimpose this on a broader Malthusian story or an emphasis on the long run.  Nor am I putting much stock in genetic evolution.  So these organizational/technological improvements, in my view, move closer to the center of the story of European progress.

Unlike Clark, I think incentives to create matter greatly, but not through patents or other direct pecuniary rate of return effects.  The great creators have a burning desire to create, provided they have the opportunity to do so.  This new European technology of organization (whatever it should be called), combined with growing wealth for the upper classes, meant that such creative opportunities were far more available than ever before.  And powerful intellects grabbed them, for reasons of psychic incentives.  So incentives are paramount to the European story, while Clark remains correct in criticizing the standard account of how those incentives might have mattered.

I also see England has having innovated with the quality of its state in particular its fiscal grounding.  I wish this played a larger role in Clark’s account although of course I understand why it does not.  Institutions are not allowed to become a competing force on center stage.  The economic returns from colonies might be given more play as well.

Overall I am willing to accept many of Clark’s arguments, but I always go back to wanting to superimpose a broader institutional story on his microfoundations.

He resists that move, and that is the major place where I part company with him.  I think he is too intent on pushing institutional and ideological factors off the stage; I am happy to allow Clark’s factors on the stage — most of all gradual growth downward mobility and quality of labor — but I want a very busy and cluttered stage.

I believe, by the way, that if Clark’s vision were correct, Australia and New Zealand would be stronger economic powerhouses than has turned out to be the case.