Moving around the City: Residential and Economic Mobility in Chicago, 1925-1930

Evan Roberts, University of Minnesota

Measurements of social mobility in the early twentieth century are rare. Some data remains restricted for privacy reasons, and there were few contemporary studies. This paper links 900 household budget surveys from Chicago and San Francisco in the 1920s and 1930s to the 1920 and 1930 census to create a sample of 600 families traced for 10-15 years. Inter-state mobility was low, with more than 90% of men remaining in the same metropolitan area over a decade of follow-up. But intra-urban mobility was high, with 60% of families moving at least once in five years. Mobility was related to job-tenure, with greater stability for men who remained in the same occupation. However, occupational mobility was high, with less than 20% of Chicago men remaining in the same job after five years. There is little evidence of widespread upward social mobility, despite a great deal of circulation in jobs and homes.

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Presented in Session 140: Economic and Geographic Mobility