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Historical Trends in Social Mobility: Data, Methods, and Farming

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionXie, Yu, and Alexandra Achen Killewald. 2010. "Historical Trends in Social Mobility: Data, Methods, and Farming." PSC Research Report No. 10-716. August 2010.

Using historical census data and survey data, Ferrie and Long (forthcoming) found a significant decline in social mobility in the United States from 1880 to 1973. We present three critiques of the Ferrie-Long study. First, the data quality of the Ferrie-Long study is far more limiting than the authors acknowledge, and we are able to detect some bias in their data in favor of their conclusion. Second, the Ferrie-Long study capitalizes on a particular method that is highly sensitive to an operationalization of the concept “social mobility.” Third, almost all the findings of the Ferrie-Long study are driven by farmers.

Country of focus: United States.

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