Discussion paper

DP13023 The Big Sort: Selective Migration and the Decline of Northern England, 1780-2018

Abstract The North of England is now poorer and less educated than the South. Using complete population data at the surname level 1837-2006, and a large sample of individuals born 1780-1929, this paper shows two things. First an important element in the decline of the North was selective outmigration of those with education and talent. This migration is evident even for the generation born 1780-1809, and continued to those born 1900-1929. There was also selective migration to the South of those with education and talent coming from outside England - Irish, Scottish, Pakistanis and others. However the migration of talent to the South created no significant external benefits to workers in the South, as would be predicted by the doctrines of the New Economic Geography. Surnames concentrated in the North do not show any national disadvantage in education, occupation or wealth. Also for workers of a given education or social background there is at most a very modest locational disadvantage associated with being born in the North. Thus there will be no efficiency gain from facilitating further migration south from the North, or from further efforts to bolster the economy of the North through government aid.


Clark, G and N Cummins (2018), ‘DP13023 The Big Sort: Selective Migration and the Decline of Northern England, 1780-2018‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 13023. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp13023