Inequality across Generations: Status Attainment in a Catalan Industrial Town, Sant Feliu De Llobregat (1800-1880).

Joana Maria Pujadas-Mora, Center for Demographic Studies
Gabriel Brea, CED, Barcelona

Catalonia faced one of the earliest processes of industrialization in south Europe, based mainly in textile activities. Since the second half of the 19th century, the Barcelonese cotton industry, moved towards adjacent areas to the Llobregat’s riverside in search of hydric sources for a high-demanding water supply (Nadal, 1992). Sant Feliu was one of the most important towns in this region, and the arrival of these economic activities induced the turn from an agricultural town to one with a wider occupational and social spectrum.

Sant Feliu’s industrialisation may have altered individuals’ inter and intra -generational status according to general literature. In this regard, the modernization theory defends that changes in the occupational structure, the educational system’s and mass transportation’s implementation propitiated a turn from parental status adscription to meritocratic status achievement, increasing social mobility (Treiman, 1970). Nevertheless, other studies argue that higher-resource families and individuals retaining their influences and preponderant positions blocked social openness (Grusky, 1983). Furthermore, the industrialisation beginning rised economic inequality (Prados de la Escosura, 2008), presumably jeopardizing the individual’s social mobility, enforcing disparity across generations, hampering the intergenerational transmission of tangible and intangible assets (Van Leeuwen, 2009).

This paper aims at evaluating how intergenerational transmission shaped the individuals’ status attainment trajectories upon industrialisation; enquiring if the occupational structure transformation surpassed or not the familial influence on individual’s attainment. We reconstruct individuals’ occupational careers through ten preserved local censuses linked and crosschecked with individual fiscal data from the Barcelona Historical Marriage Database. We use multilevel modelling for familial effects persistence adding different measures of individual and household inequality in order to inquiry whether the interaction of contextual factors as disparity, changes in the occupational structure and the inherent inheritance legal system affected the familial dynamics of intergenerational transmission by social class, birth order, sex among others.


Inequality across generations: Status attainment in a Catalan industrial town, Sant Feliu de Llobregat.

Catalonia faced one of the earliest processes of industrialization in south Europe, based mainly in textile activities. In this sense, since the second half of the 19th century, the flourishing Barcelonese cotton industry, moved towards adjacent areas to the Llobregat’s riverside in search of hydric sources for a high-demanding water supply (Nadal, 1992). Sant Feliu de Llobregat was one of the most important towns in this region, and the arrival of these new economic activities and the railway (1855) induced the turn from an agricultural town to one characterised by a wider occupational and social spectrum.

Sant Feliu’s industrialisation may have altered individuals’ inter and intra -generational status according to general literature. In this regard, the modernization theory defends that changes in the occupational structure, the educational system’s and mass transportation’s implementation propitiated a turn from parental status adscription to meritocratic status achievement, increasing social mobility (Treiman, 1970; Breen and Luijkx, 2004). Nevertheless, other studies argue that higher-resource families and individuals retaining their influences and preponderant positions blocked social openness (Grusky, 1983). Furthermore, the industrialisation beginning raised economic inequality (Prados de la Escosura, 2008) as can be seen in Figure 1 for the area of Barcelona where Sant Feliu was located. The figure bellow show how individuals’ inequality increased importantly since the 1820’s until the 1875 approximately along with the industrial consolidation in the region. Afterwards, disparity started to decrease in what seems to fit in the first part of the so-called Kuznets U-shape curve of inequality (Kuznets, 1955). The increase of inequality presumably jeopardize the individual’s social mobility, enforcing disparity across generations, hampering the intergenerational transmission of tangible and intangible assets (Van Leeuwen, 2009).

This paper aims at evaluating how intergenerational transmission shaped the individuals’ status attainment trajectories upon industrialisation taking into account if the occupational structure transformation surpassed or not the familial influence on individual’s attainment. We reconstruct individuals’ occupational careers through ten preserved local censuses (padrones de habitants), from the 1857 to the 1924, with information on household and individual level, gathering age, occupation, literacy, birthplace, family relationship and address of each individual. In this period the inhabitants registered in the census increased from 2,500 (1857) to over 6,000 (1924). The local censuses’ data will be linked and crosschecked with individual fiscal data from the Barcelona Historical Marriage Database, to assess the evolving patterns of inequality. This fiscal data provides a tax based on the socioeconomic status of couples (grooms) that was paid in order to have granted a marriage license. During the 19th century the taxes were classified in seven different socioeconomic categories ranging from the nobility to lower strata composed of farmers and artisans, additionally, there was also an extra level exempting poor grooms of the license burden.

We do propose a multilevel modelling approach for estimating if the familial background persisted or not on individuals across the industrialization through growth models allowing the evaluation of the individuals’ occupational trajectories. This analytical strategy enable us not only to follow individual’s life course and occupational careers but also computing, testing and observing the familial impact on their socioeconomic outcomes. For instance, previous studies found in industrialising Dutch towns show familial influences ranging at the 50% (intra-class correlation coefficients) on individuals (Knigge et al., 2014). The inequality will be measured interacting the marriage taxes with the socio-occupational information classified through HISCO and HISCAM (Lambert, et al., 2013) to build a human capital approach based on the ability-to-pay concept (Kendrick, 1939).

Moreover, the presence of universal inheritance system based on male primogeniture in Catalonia (Ros, 2012) adds another element in the study of inequality within families, because the non-inheritors were less likely to inherit the same parental occupation and/or status. In this sense, non-first born children used to performance different occupational careers, and the occupational structure transformation within the industrialisation process may have boosted or shrank their opportunities of upward social mobility. Our main hypothesis is that disparity across industrialisation would hold a constant level among first-born (inheritors) and would increase for non-first born, because depending of the familial social groups some of them would use channels of human capital investment as education whilst others would entail proletarianisation in factory system. Hence, we do propose adding different measures of individual and household inequality in our models in order to inquiry whether the interaction of contextual factors as disparity, changes in the occupational structure and the inherent inheritance legal system affected the familial dynamics of intergenerational transmission by social class, birth order, sex among others.

Presented in Session 1060: History