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

6 July 2020
The main domestic data event over the past week was the release of the 2020Q1 GDP figures. Although not as poor as feared, the data still highlighted just how weak the SA economy was even before the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis hit with full force in 2020Q2. In other domestic news, a heated debate is raging about the fiscal consolidation outlined in...

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BER Weekly

6 July 2020
The main domestic data event over the past week was the release of the 2020Q1 GDP figures. Although not as poor as feared, the data still highlighted just how weak the SA economy was even before the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis hit with full force in 2020Q2. In other domestic news, a heated debate is raging about the fiscal consolidation outlined in...

Read the full issue