What your surname says about your life chances

Dina Rickman@dinarickman
Tuesday 18 November 2014 14:00
The Domesday Book of 1086 records surnames for many major landholders

Social status in England is even more strongly inherited than height, according to a new study by economists from the University of California and the London School of Economics.

'Surnames and Social Mobility in England, 1170–2012' found that if your ancestors descended from the upper classes in England in 1066, you are more likely to be upper class today - almost 1,000 years on.

In the study, published in the journal Human Nature, researchers looked at the Oxbridge attendance records of people with rare English surnames as well as probate records and records of rich property owners to track social mobility from 1170-2012. The rare family names included Atthill, Bunduck, Balfour, Bramston, Cheslyn, and Conyngham.

As well as the social standing/height finding, they discovered that social mobility in England in 2012 is not that much greater than it was in pre-industrial times.

"The relative constancy of the intergenerational correlation of underlying social status across very different social environments in England from 1800 to 2012 suggests that it stems from the nature of inheritance of characteristics within families," says Gregory Clark of the University of California.

"Even more remarkable is the lack of a sign of any decline in status persistence across major institutional changes, such as the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, the spread of universal schooling in the late 19th century, or the rise of the social democratic state in the twentieth century."

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