Discussion paper

DP17074 Assortative Mating and the Industrial Revolution: England, 1754-2021

Using a new database of 1.7 million marriage records for England 1837-2021 we estimate assortment by occupational status in marriage, and the intergenerational correlation of occupational status. We find the underlying correlations of status groom-bride, and father-son, are remarkably high: 0.8 and 0.9 respectively. These correlations are unchanged 1837-2021. There is evidence this strong matching extends back to at least 1754. Even before formal education and occupations for women, grooms and brides matched tightly on educational and occupational abilities. We show further that women contributed as much as men to important child outcomes. This implies strong marital sorting substantially increased the variance of social abilities in England. Pre-industrial marital systems typically involved much less marital sorting. Thus the development of assortative marriage may play a role in the location and timing of the Industrial Revolution, through its effect on the supply of those with upper-tail abilities.


Clark, G and N Cummins (2022), ‘DP17074 Assortative Mating and the Industrial Revolution: England, 1754-2021‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17074. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17074