The (South) American dream : geographic and economic mobility in 19th-century Argentina

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In this dissertation I study geographic and economic mobility in late 19th-century Argentina. In the first chapter, I compare rates of intergenerational occupational mobility in 1869-1895 Argentina to those in (1) 1850-1880 United States, (2) 1851-1881 United Kingdom and (3) 1865-1900 Norway. I find that Argentina had levels of intergenerational occupational mobility that were very close to those of the US, and considerably above those of the UK and Norway. There was a sharp divide between Old and New World countries in terms of social mobility, with the latter featuring much higher mobility levels than the former. I also document the existence of large differences in rates of intergenerational occupational mobility across regions of Argentina: the difference between the least and the most mobile province in terms of mobility is of similar magnitude to the difference between the US and the UK in the same time period. In the second chapter, I study the mobility and economic outcomes of European immigrants and their children in 19th-century Argentina, the second largest destination country during the Age of Mass Migration. I use new data linking males across censuses and passenger lists of arrivals to Buenos Aires. First-generation immigrants experienced faster occupational upgrading than natives. Occupational mobility was substantial relative to Europe; immigrants holding unskilled occupations upon arrival experienced high rates of occupational upgrading. Second-generation immigrants outperformed the sons of natives in terms of literacy, occupational status and access to property, and experienced higher rates of intergenerational mobility out of unskilled occupations. In the third chapter, I study the effects of improvements in transport infrastructure on the economic outcomes of parents and their children. To do so, I exploit the expansion of the railroad network in 19th-century Argentina and new longitudinal data following individuals before and after this expansion took place. To deal with the endogeneity of railroad location, I construct an instrumental variable that takes advantage of the fact that districts along the route of province capitals were more likely to be connected. I find that, once their district got connected to the railroad, adults largely remained farmers or farm workers. By contrast, their children moved out of farming toward more modern and higher paying occupations. The movement out of farming occupations reflected both local changes in employment structure and increased migration out of rural areas, and it was more pronounced among children in districts where the soil was not suitable for agriculture. Consistent with the higher level of skills required for this transition out of farming occupations, children in connected districts were more likely to be literate in adulthood. These results shed light on how improvements in transportation can shape the transition from a mostly rural to a diversified economy.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2017
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Pérez, Santiago
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Economics.
Primary advisor Abramitzky, Ran
Thesis advisor Abramitzky, Ran
Thesis advisor Chandrasekhar, Arun G
Thesis advisor Morten, Melanie
Thesis advisor Wright, Gavin
Advisor Chandrasekhar, Arun G
Advisor Morten, Melanie
Advisor Wright, Gavin


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Santiago Pérez.
Note Submitted to the Department of Economics.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2017 by Santiago Enrique Perez
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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