Skip to main content

20.09.2023   kl. 11:15 - 12:15

DIAS Lecture: The Inheritance of Social Status: England, 1600-2022

Professor Gregory Clark, Chair of Business and Social Sciences, Department of Economics

Using data from an extensive lineage of 422,374 English people 1600-2022, with some families followed for 8 generations, the talk will explore how social status is determined. The lineage data offers some remarkable findings.

First status persists very strongly across generations, so that even people as remote as 4th cousins still have correlated social status in 2023 even though their most recent common ancestor was born in 1780.

Second the strength of persistence of status across generations has not changed 1600-2022. The momentous social changes of these years – the Industrial Revolution, mass public education, the emancipation of women, the welfare state – caused no increase in social mobility rates.

The third surprising feature is that the correlations between relatives are exactly those predicted by a simple model of additive genetic determination of status, with a genetic correlation in marriage of close to 0.6.

In this talk I will explore, using other data from this rich lineage, whether the parallel between the status inheritance and genetic transmission is just an accident, or does indeed imply a social world where genetic determinism rules.


Gregory Clark, Chair of Business and Social Sciences, is an Full Professor of Economics at the Historical Economics and Development Group, HEDG, at SDU. He is a Distinguished Professor of Economics at University of California, Davis, and a Visiting Professor in the Economic History Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE. He is a world-renowned researcher in Quantitative Economic History and has published two widely cited books on international economic history: A Farewell to Alms – A Brief Economic History of the World (Princeton UP, 2007); and The Son Also Rises: Surnames and Social Mobility (Princeton UP, 2014).

The key research idea, which has led to his moving to the Economics Department of the University of Southern Denmark, is to apply Clark’s innovative techniques to the Human Capital of the Nordic Countries (HCNC) database (funded by the Carlsberg Foundation to PI prof. Paul Sharp at SDU) over multiple generations in Denmark and Norway, spanning 1790 to 1940.

In the DIAS Seminar room, open for all.