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    Persistence of social status in Europe

    It seems to be in every country.

    In England it can be seen by looking at Norman surnames:



    Same in Florence: the same families are still at the top.
    https://qz.com/694340/the-richest-fa...s-in-florence/


    "While researchers admit the flaws to tracing family wealth using surnames, they point out Italian surnames are usually highly regional and tend to pass on linearly. The families at the top of the socioeconomic ladder six centuries ago are the top earners among current taxpayers. Those at the top of the ladder had the most prestigious jobs, while families at the bottom had less esteemed occupations, with earnings below the median.While it comes as little surprise that families pass on their wealth to their children, it’s still somewhat remarkable that these families were able to maintain their wealth through various sieges of Florence, Napoleon’s campaign in Italy, Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship, and two world wars.

    The same is true in Genova and Venezia.

    There have been changes over time, of course, with some of the offspring falling down the economic ladder and the surnames thus being found in lower social classes. There's some holder of a Dukedom in England who is now a landscape gardener. However, some of the descendants have held onto their wealth and status.

    Some combination of cautious spending, planning for the future of their progeny, and genetics must be some of the factors.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post
    It seems to be in every country.

    In England it can be seen by looking at Norman surnames:



    Same in Florence: the same families are still at the top.
    https://qz.com/694340/the-richest-fa...s-in-florence/


    "While researchers admit the flaws to tracing family wealth using surnames, they point out Italian surnames are usually highly regional and tend to pass on linearly. The families at the top of the socioeconomic ladder six centuries ago are the top earners among current taxpayers. Those at the top of the ladder had the most prestigious jobs, while families at the bottom had less esteemed occupations, with earnings below the median.While it comes as little surprise that families pass on their wealth to their children, it’s still somewhat remarkable that these families were able to maintain their wealth through various sieges of Florence, Napoleon’s campaign in Italy, Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship, and two world wars.

    The same is true in Genova and Venezia.

    There have been changes over time, of course, with some of the offspring falling down the economic ladder and the surnames thus being found in lower social classes. There's some holder of a Dukedom in England who is now a landscape gardener. However, some of the descendants have held onto their wealth and status.

    Some combination of cautious spending, planning for the future of their progeny, and genetics must be some of the factors.
    Sometimes - if not often enough - I assume that social mobility is a more theoretical than real phenomenon. I don't say that it doesn't occur in absolute terms, but probably it takes place in a much less radical and more limited way (i.e. civil wars, institutions of new colonial societies ...). Who belongs to a ruling / wealthy class almost always enjoys a social activity that in some way can cushion any disruption.
    I'm thinking of an old research that I had carried out during the years of the PhD, about the Goths surviving in Italy after the Greek-Gothic war ... It was simply embarrassing to see how many of them - despite the vulgate of the school books that would claim them all disappeared or expelled from the Peninsula - had largely become officials of the Byzantines and the Exarch, maintaining high-ranking military and civilian functions at the local level, and obviously considerable availability of material goods including significant land possessions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stuvanè View Post
    Sometimes - if not often enough - I assume that social mobility is a more theoretical than real phenomenon. I don't say that it doesn't occur in absolute terms, but probably it takes place in a much less radical and more limited way (i.e. civil wars, institutions of new colonial societies ...). Who belongs to a ruling / wealthy class almost always enjoys a social activity that in some way can cushion any disruption.
    I'm thinking of an old research that I had carried out during the years of the PhD, about the Goths surviving in Italy after the Greek-Gothic war ... It was simply embarrassing to see how many of them - despite the vulgate of the school books that would claim them all disappeared or expelled from the Peninsula - had largely become officials of the Byzantines and the Exarch, maintaining high-ranking military and civilian functions at the local level, and obviously considerable availability of material goods including significant land possessions.
    American history is replete with examples of people who were lower class or at least much poorer than they became in America. Think of someone like Carnegie, or, on a lesser scale, someone like Lee Iacocca, or Mario Cuomo.

    In my father's mother's family they possessed wealth in the 1300s, 1400s, and 1500s, but by the late 1800s all that was left was some silver: eweres, spoons, salt cellars etc. My father was the smartest man I ever met, but a university education, even a liceo education, was beyond his reach. To be fair, the war also played a part. Yet here he had a son with a PHD from MIT and a daughter who graduated from a top tier law school. The opportunities in one's home country can be astonishingly small.

    Some do exist, however. My mother's family was luckier, probably because they came from close to La Spezia and its Arsenale, and weren't isolated in the mountains far away from any opportunities which developed because of the Industrial Revolution. As the article points out, the most change in status was seen from 1800 to today. From 1100 to 1800 things barely changed. My great-grandfather went to work there, my grandfather became chief machinist, his son an engineer, and so on. That side of the family is all engineers and doctors. For all the moaning about the effects of the Industrial Revolution, it shook up the social order and allowed capable people to rise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post
    For all the moaning about the effects of the Industrial Revolution, it shook up the social order and allowed capable people to rise.
    Now that is well said. It was the static nature of society (of technological progress) that allowed the land-owning class to rule for so long. This may be hard to see from today's perspective because with change now occurring constantly, we can't imagine stasis.

    So, in a way, chaos is a ladder. And that's why those on top always try to slow down change so they can maintain their perch (NYT versus the bloggers for instance).

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    My maternal grandfather has a Latinized-Norman surname, and his family was relatively well-to-do in their village. Though there is no genetic connection, other than what I assumed from my 4% Northwest European and 4% Northeast European admixture, in Helix Geographic 2.0 results.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post
    It seems to be in every country.

    In England it can be seen by looking at Norman surnames
    Family fortunes have their ups and down, but the persistence of wealth can be amazing. Early members of my male-line family (that is, I believe they are though I haven't been able to prove it) were reasonably wealthy as early as c1300 (wealthy enough to be mayor of Lancaster, England, a job usually reserved on rotation for well-to-do merchants). That family remained wealthy through the 18th century, reaching a peak in the early 1700's when they were MPs. The only reason the family declined was because they turned their back on trade (not uncommon in England) and lived for the next 200 years on the dwindling balance until the family died out in the male line.

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    Was Clark surprised at his findings, implying as they do that capitalism has not led to a rapid, persistent mobility? "Very surprised; astonished," he says. "It took us considerable time to realise that surnames were revealing a surprising persistence in social life that conventional methods fail to detect."
    "Social mobility rates are similar across societies that vary dramatically in their institutions and income levels. Cradle-to-grave socialist Sweden and dog-eat-dog, free-to-lose America have similar rates. Communist China and capitalist Taiwan have similar rates. Homogenous Japan and the ethnically fractured US also have similar rates," he says.

    "Only extreme, drastic and unacceptable state interventions have any hope of increasing social mobility." Not even the Communist Revolution in China in 1949 managed to have a lasting, pervasive effect on mobility, according to his study.

    ........
    Clark suggests that mobility in feudal England was not vastly different to today. Upwardly mobile artisans working in the 12th century took eight generations to be absorbed into the educated elite of the 16th century.


    https://www.independent.co.uk/life-s...y-9152960.html


    https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691162546/the-son-also-rises

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    Thanks for digging up some more information. Those quotes from Clark seem to contradict a bit his statement in the first excerpt that there was "a period of somewhat faster mobility from 1800 to 2012".

    I suppose that people who had held onto their money jumped on the Industrial Revolution bandwagon, and so maintained their position.

    I know I sometimes sound like a genetic determinist, but no matter the changes to society, if you don't have the intellectual wherewithal to take advantage of those changes you're going nowhere.

    If you're on the bottom there are also no contacts to help you.

    Is Clark primarily looking to see if the same family names which were wealthy in the, say, 1400s, are still wealthy today?

    Is he also looking to see which family names were, in the 1400s, "lowly", but now appear among the more wealthy?

    I think looking at American data is always tricky for sociologists. For years we were told the American school system was a failure compared to those in Europe. If you break out the data for white Americans, however, that isn't at all the case. If we're failing anyone, it's minorities.

    Likewise, what would the percentages be if you looked at the social status of people who migrate to a new country with more opportunity and a less rigid class structure? Of course, again, it would depend on the abilities of the migrating people, so there would be individual differences, and perhaps even ethnic differences. I'm absolutely positive that there were very few Jewish names among the wealthy in colonial era America, but the descendants of poor shtetl Jews certainly appear in that group today.

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    1 members found this post helpful.
    Yes, wealth is preserved absent massive changes because of war and population movements.

    In the case of my family, we were pretty large landowners in what is now Eastern Thrace (part of Turkey). My grandfather was warned to sell his holdings before WWI but he did not want to move his family and was caught flatfooted during the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey and lost it all. Had to settle for a much much smaller land allocation. Remember that about 350,000 Turks from Greece were exchanged for > 1.6M Greeks from Turkey. Then came WWII and the Greek Civil War. Greece was devastated and impoverished from all these wars and massive influx of population. My father was extremely smart but never had the chance to go to secondary school or obtain a university education. He was imprisoned by the Germans for 2.5 years and then drafted into the Greek Civil War. But his kids did well. A Ph.D, in Industrial Engineering, a Ph.D in Chemistry and a Masters in Literature. Not bad after losing everything.
    Last edited by bigsnake49; 24-12-19 at 17:53.

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    I find it hard to accept Clark's findings and, while I don't want to be one of those people who refuse to accept findings they don't like, I want to wait for some confirmation. There have been too many studies that cannot be replicated. And, like this study, they tended to support the most current political thinking . . . in this case that the unequal distribution of wealth requires "extreme" government intervention to fix.

    I do accept that there will be some persistence in those at the top, if only because it takes time for the descendants to go through their ancestor's fortunes. However, if you look at the great fortunes early in the last century compared to this, the names have mainly flipped. Today it's Zuckerberg, not JP Morgan.

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    Of course there is some mobility thru time. And sure there are many examples of lower class people rising to the top due to being gifted with talents or immense drive to succeed. Thing is if one's ancestors have been a part of the elite at some point there is a strong chance that one is doing great in their walk of life (be it a physician, a scholar, an engineer,high-ranking officer)..in some cases the memory of the former family glory days may have completely faded away !


    A longstanding family culture may foster capacities to, for example, teach children to speak with a socially approved accent, buffer them from the downsides of health risks and other threats to their human capital, or simply to instill an identity of entitlement. A surname is not just an index of genes but also of social pressures and entitlements that keep some down and keep others from falling down. In this way, what Clark terms luck may also persist across generations and it will also generate persistence in “social competence.”
    https://milescorak.com/2014/05/22/so...tic-overreach/


    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/socia...ises-responds/


    Sweden is a part of the study too. Swedish nobility as far as I know is more of a "meritocratic"one, with the number of the families kind of kept constant. Well, the "noble" names are overrepresented again in the top places of academic,financial and industrial sphere...many of them fallen long ago out of the "noble" rank.


    Elite is elite...

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