“Train to Opportunity: the Effect of Infrastructure on Intergenerational Mobility”
Can transport infrastructure promote long-term labor opportunities and break the occupation tie between parents and their children? This paper estimates the causal effect of access to the railroad network on intergenerational mobility in nineteenth-century England and Wales. By linking individuals across the five full-population censuses from 1851 to 1911, and geolocating addresses, we determine how proximity to the nearest train station affected the occupation mobility between fathers and sons. We address the endogeneity in proximity to train stations by leveraging the as-good-as-random opening of built and planned train stations. We find that sons who grew up approximately 5 km closer to a train station were 2% more likely to work in a different occupation than their father and 6% more likely to be upwardly mobile. The majority of the effects are driven by changes in local labor opportunities.
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