The reward of audacity? Looking at migration gains in urbanizing France, 1870-1940

Lionel Kesztenbaum, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

Migration may be view as a way to take advantage of opportunities on distant labor markets. However few studies were able to quantify the relationship between social and geographic mobility. By combining a large database that gives information on both individual and their family with military registers that provide detailed migration history, we can precisely assess social and wealth mobility for both migrants and stayers. At the end of the 19th century, France experienced at the same time economic growth –that creates spatial heterogeneity– and standardization of education –with every young men receiving primary education. Then we expect social mobility to be high. We show that, indeed, migrants are more socially mobile but they also have much less wealth than stayers. This may be linked to the high cost of migrating as well as to different strategies or tastes regarding assets accumulation. Finally, we use family characteristics to account for migrants’ selection.

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Presented in Session 21: The renewal of urban historical demography