North and south: long-run social mobility in England and attitudes toward welfare



Abstract: In this paper, we examine the long-run social mobility experience in England. We present evidence for surprisingly constant levels of social mobility over the period 1550–1749, despite huge structural changes. Examining regional differences, we show that the North of England exhibited higher rates of social mobility than the South. We link this to the hypothesis that historically high levels of social mobility can lead to a culture of non-acceptance of redistribution and welfare provision. Taking advantage of the fact that welfare provision was determined at the local level at the time, we are able to compare social mobility rates and welfare spending within a single country. Consistent with the hypothesis, we find evidence for historically higher levels of social mobility as well as lower welfare spending and less acceptance of redistribution in the North.