The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility [NOOK Book]


How much of our fate is tied to the status of our parents and grandparents? How much does this influence our children? More than we wish to believe. While it has been argued that rigid class structures have eroded in favor of greater social equality, The Son Also Rises proves that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries. Using a novel technique—tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods—renowned economic historian Gregory Clark ...

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The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility

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How much of our fate is tied to the status of our parents and grandparents? How much does this influence our children? More than we wish to believe. While it has been argued that rigid class structures have eroded in favor of greater social equality, The Son Also Rises proves that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries. Using a novel technique—tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods—renowned economic historian Gregory Clark reveals that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies. The good news is that these patterns are driven by strong inheritance of abilities and lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage. The bad news is that much of our fate is predictable from lineage. Clark argues that since a greater part of our place in the world is predetermined, we must avoid creating winner-take-all societies.

Clark examines and compares surnames in such diverse cases as modern Sweden, fourteenth-century England, and Qing Dynasty China. He demonstrates how fate is determined by ancestry and that almost all societies—as different as the modern United States, Communist China, and modern Japan—have similarly low social mobility rates. These figures are impervious to institutions, and it takes hundreds of years for descendants to shake off the advantages and disadvantages of their ancestors. For these reasons, Clark contends that societies should act to limit the disparities in rewards between those of high and low social rank.

Challenging popular assumptions about mobility and revealing the deeply entrenched force of inherited advantage, The Son Also Rises is sure to prompt intense debate for years to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The American dream—rising socially to achieve success and prosperity—seems alive and well despite the economy. Clark (economics, Univ. of California, Davis; A Farewell to Alms) concedes the popular belief that a good society is marked by high rates of social mobility. But his provocative thesis is that social mobility, in the United States and elsewhere, happens far more slowly than existing studies indicate, because those investigations focus on just one aspect of status (e.g., income or occupation). Clark settled on surnames as the best way to track the rich and poor in various societies. He uses several measures to determine mobility, including occupation, education, income, and wealth. The author's most vexing claim is that social status is inherited in much the same way as biological traits: it's in the genes. To the extent that both rich and poor groups will regress to the social mean over a period of hundreds of years, Clark sees society as ultimately egalitarian. But, oddly enough, because of the genetic component, it's the intermarriage between groups that is the great equalizer. Clark's analysis covers a number of different countries and eras (e.g., modern Sweden and China, medieval England), and various coauthors contribute data. VERDICT No doubt this book will be as controversial as its thesis is thought-provoking. The prose can get a little dense with statistics,but the travels across continents and through time are intriguing enough to make this title worth reading. Buy for academic sociology and economics collections.—Carol Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin-Whitewater Libs.
From the Publisher

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014

One of Vox's "Best Books We Read in 2014"

"The Son Also Rises . . . suggests that dramatic social mobility has always been the exception rather than the rule. Clark examines a host of societies over the past seven hundred years and finds that the makeup of a given country's economic élite has remained surprisingly stable."--James Surowiecki, New Yorker

"An epic feat of data crunching and collaborative grind. . . . Mr. Clark has just disrupted our complacent idea of a socially mobile, democratically fluid society."--Trevor Butterworth, Wall Street Journal

"Audacious . . ."--Barbara Kiser, Nature

"[A]n important book, and anybody at all interested in inequality and the kind of society we have should read it."--Diane Coyle, Enlightened Economist

"The Son Also Rises. . . . That is the new Greg Clark book and yes it is an event and yes you should buy it."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"Startling. . . . Clark proposes a new way to measure mobility across nations and over time. He tracks the persistence of rare surnames at different points on the socio-economic scale. The information he gathers is absorbing in its own right, quite aside from its implications."--Clive Crook, Bloomberg View

"Clark casts his net wider. He looks at mobility not across one or two generations, but across many. And he shows by focusing on surnames--last names--how families overrepresented in elite institutions remain that way, though to diminishing degrees, not just for a few generations but over centuries."--Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

"Deeply challenging . . ."--Margaret Wente, Globe & Mail

"Who should you marry if you want to win at the game of life? Gregory Clark . . . offers some answers in his fascinating new book, The Son Also Rises."--Eric Kaufmann, Literary Review

"This intriguing book measures social mobility in a novel way, by tracing unusual surnames over several generations in nine different countries, focusing on intergenerational changes in education, wealth, and social status as indicated by occupation."--Foreign Affairs

"No doubt this book will be as controversial as its thesis is thought-provoking."--Library Journal

"Gregory Clark's analysis of intergenerational mobility signals a marked shift in the way economists think about social mobility."--Andrew Leigh, Sydney Morning Herald

"The thesis of The Son Also Rises is, fundamentally, that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Ingeniously, Clark and his team of researchers look at the persistence of socioeconomic status through the lens of surnames in more than 20 societies."--Tim Sullivan, Harvard Business Review

"Clark has a predilection for investigating interesting questions, as well as for literary puns. . . . [J]ust as Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, calls into question the role of capitalism in wealth creation, Clark calls into question the role of capitalism in social mobility."--Theodore Kinni,

"Clark's book is not merely intellectually clever, it's profoundly challenging. Especially for Americans, it calls into question of ourselves as individuals, as well as our long-standing image of our society. Let's hope he's wrong."--Benjamin M. Friedman, The Atlantic

"Adopting an innovative approach to using surnames to measure social mobility, The Son Also Rises engages the reader by presenting data that comes to life as it is anchored by names we see in our daily life. . . . A book with valuable insights derived from a well-designed research, it is strongly recommended to all serious readers interested in building strong democracies, for high social mobility is at the heart of a vibrant democracy. Policy makers will gain the benefits of counter-intuitive conclusions that this book throws up with its multi-generational study. Academicians interested in social justice and social activists engaged in promoting social mobility too will have a lot to chew on."--BusinessWorld

"Clark continues the project begun in his A Farewell to Alms. Here, he offers a controversial challenge to standard ideas that social mobility wipes out class advantages over a few generations. . . . An important, challenging book."--Choice

"[T]his is a well written and thought-provoking book. . . . I look forward to his next book--and his next Hemingway pun!"--Edward Dutton, Quarterly Review

"Clark's book begins a fascinating and important conversation about social mobility. . . . Clark's findings are important to engage with, and they will factor into discussions about social mobility for years to come."--Laura Salisbury, EH.Net

"[I]t's one of those rare, invigorating arguments which, if correct, totally upends your understanding of the way the world works. Right or wrong, I've thought about it more than anything else I read in 2014."--Dylan Matthews, a Vox "Best Books We Read in 2014" selection

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400851096
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 2/23/2014
  • Series: Princeton Economic History of the Western World
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Core Textbook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 296,464
  • File size: 16 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Gregory Clark is professor of economics at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (Princeton).
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Table of Contents

Preface ix
1 Introduction: Of Ruling Classes and Underclasses: The Laws of Social Mobility 1
PART I Social Mobility by Time and Place
2 Sweden: Mobility Achieved? 19
3 The United States: Land of Opportunity 45
4 Medieval England: Mobility in the Feudal Age 70
5 Modern England: The Deep Roots of the Present 88
6 A Law of Social Mobility 107
7 Nature versus Nurture 126
PART II Testing the Laws of Mobility
8 India: Caste, Endogamy, and Mobility 143
9 China and Taiwan: Mobility after Mao 167
10 Japan and Korea: Social Homogeneity and Mobility 182
11 Chile: Mobility among the Oligarchs 199
12 The Law of Social Mobility and Family Dynamics 212
13 Protestants, Jews, Gypsies, Muslims, and Copts: Exceptions to the Law of Mobility? 228
14 Mobility Anomalies 253
PART III The Good Society
15 Is Mobility Too Low? Mobility versus Inequality 261
16 Escaping Downward Social Mobility 279
Appendix 1: Measuring Social Mobility 287
Appendix 2: Deriving Mobility Rates from Surname Frequencies 296
Appendix 3: Discovering the Status of Your Surname Lineage 301
Data Sources for Figures and Tables 319
References 333
Index 349
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