Social mobility during South Africa’s industrial take-off

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP04/2017
 
Publication date: May 2017
 
Author(s):
[protected email address] (Department of Economic History, Lund University)
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)
 
Abstract:

In the absence of historical income or education data, the change in occupations over time can be used as a measure of social mobility. This paper investigates intergenerational occupational mobility using a novel genealogical dataset for settler South Africa, spanning its transition from an agricultural to an early industrialized society (1800–1909). We identify fathers and sons for whom we have complete information on occupational attainment. We follow a two-generation discrete approach to measure changes in both absolute and relative mobility over time. Consistent with qualitative evidence of a shift away from agriculture as the economy’s dominant sector, we see the farming class shrinking and the skilled and professional classes growing. Controlling for changes in the structure of the labor market over time, we find increasing social mobility, becoming significant after the discovery of minerals in 1868. We find this mobility particularly for semi-skilled workers but virtually no improved mobility for sons of farmers. We also test hypotheses related to the mobility prospects for first-born sons and sons of immigrants.

 
JEL Classification:

J60, J61, J62, N30, N37

Keywords:

Intergenerational mobility, social mobility, resource curse, industrialization, colonialism, longitudinal data

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BER Weekly

10 December
Dominating the domestic headlines last week was the news that South Africa exited a technical recession in 2018Q3. While this was widely expected, the pace of GDP growth surprised on the upside. More on this in the domestic section. After the release of some survey data for the fourth quarter (see domestic section for details), a spate of actual activity...

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Upcoming Seminars

No seminars are currently listed. Please check back soon.
 
More...

BER Weekly

10 December
Dominating the domestic headlines last week was the news that South Africa exited a technical recession in 2018Q3. While this was widely expected, the pace of GDP growth surprised on the upside. More on this in the domestic section. After the release of some survey data for the fourth quarter (see domestic section for details), a spate of actual activity...

Read the full issue