Nina Boberg-Fazlic: Essays on Demography, Social Mobility, and the Development of the Welfare State

This dissertation is comprised of four self-contained chapters in different fields of economics. The first chapter is a theoretical paper presenting an overlapping generations model examining the effects of increased life expectancy on the choices of length of schooling and retirement age. I show that, taking lifetime uncertainty into account, educational attainment always increases upon an increase in life expectancy even if the retirement age is reduced. Thus, the empirical observation of falling lifetime labour supply and increasing educational attainment can be reconciled. The remaining three chapters are within the field of economic history. They are empirical in nature, concerning historical developments in England before and during industrialization. Chapter 2 investigates and explains fertility differences, and the consequences thereof, by socio-economic group in pre-industrial England. We find that wealthier groups did indeed have higher fertility until the 1700s and that the children of the rich were downwardly mobile, as suggested by Greg Clark. But they were small in number relative to poorer sections of society, making the consequences of the observed fertility pattern less clear. Chapter 3 examines the hypothesis that historically high levels of social mobility can lead to a culture of non-acceptance of redistribution and welfare provision as suggested by Piketty (1995). Based on a regional study of historical social mobility, we show that North England, which has historically had lower levels of welfare spending, consistent with the hypothesis  also exhibits higher rates of mobility. Chapter 4 presents a novel way of testing the ‘crowding out hypothesis’ between government spending and private charitable activity. Using within-country heterogeneity in welfare spending under the Old Poor Laws, we find in fact a positive relationship: areas with more public provision also enjoyed higher levels of charitable income.