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Rural-Urban Migration and Socioeconomic Mobility in Victorian Britain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2005

Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Colby College, 5243 Mayflower Hill Drive, Waterville, ME 04901. E-mail:


This article analyzes rural-urban migration in Great Britain in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Using a new dataset of 28,000 individuals matched between the 1851 and 1881 population censuses, I examine the selection process and treatment effect of migration, controlling for the endogeneity of the migration decision. I find that urban migrants were positively selected—the best of the rural labor pool—and that the economic benefits of migration were substantial. Migrants responded to market signals, and labor markets were largely efficient; however, not all gains from migration were exploited, potentially indicating some degree of inefficiency.

© 2005 The Economic History Association

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