The Journal of Economic History


Migration and Economic Mobility: Wealth Accumulation and Occupational Change Among Antebellum Migrants and Persisters

Steven Herscovicia1

a1 Analysis Group/Economics, One Brattle Square, Fifth Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138. Phone (617)349-2102; (617)864-3742.


Research on nineteenth-century economic and social mobility has concentrated on occupational change among men who remained in the same community for ten or more years, although fewer than half of any community's residents persist that long. This article uses a data set created specifically to compare the experiences of men who migrated from Newburyport, Massachusetts in the mid-nineteenth century with those of men who persisted. It finds that blue-collar migrants were more successful than were their counterparts who did not move. The results suggest that previous studies may have considerably underestimated the extent of economic opportunity in nineteenth-century America.