Towards Open Societies


Have our societies become more “open”, in the sense that the chances to be upwardly or downwardly mobile have become more equal? And if so, why, since when, and how quickly? We answer these points by studying intergenerational social mobility during the past 300 years. More precisely, we compare the social class positions of children with those of their parents in various epochs, countries, and within countries in various regions, and relate these associations to the institutional contexts of the societies and to notable characteristics of the individuals in question. Has there been a trend towards more intergenerational social mobility in all or some parts of Europe? Have levels of mobility converged? If so, where and when did those trends start? What were the determinants of social mobility in the various regions and historical periods? Which institutions have historically furthered and which have hampered social mobility between the generations?

We answer these questions using a unique historical database of 4 million individual records from historical vital registers, employed in combination with surveys, job advertisements in newspapers, and data on institutional contexts.  A comparative classification of occupations (HISCO) and associated measures of rank (HIS-CAM) and class (HISCLASS) are applied.


“Towards Open Societies” (TOS) is an ERC-Advanced Investigators grant supported project which will unveil changes in the social stratification structure as well as determine causes of social mobility in Western societies in the 19th and 20th century.

Towards Open Societies? Trends, variations and driving forces of intergenerational social mobility in Europe over the past three centuries.