Discussion paper

DP17835 The Inheritance of Social Status: England, 1600-2022

A lineage of 422,215 English people 1600-2022 contains correlations in social outcomes among relatives as distant as 4th cousins. These correlations show striking patterns. First is the strong persistence of social status across family trees. Correlations decline by a factor of only 0.8 across each generation. Even fourth cousins, with a common ancestor only five generations earlier, show significant status correlations. The second remarkable feature is that the decline in correlation with genetic distance in the lineage is unchanged 1600-2022. Vast social changes in England between 1600 and 2022 would have been expected to increase social mobility. Yet people remain correlated in outcomes with their lineage relatives in exactly the same way as in pre-industrial England. The third surprising feature is that the correlations parallel those of a simple model of additive genetic determination of status, with a genetic correlation in marriage of 0.6.


Clark, G (2023), ‘DP17835 The Inheritance of Social Status: England, 1600-2022‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17835. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17835