UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Essays on British labour markets during the Second Industrial Revolution Milner, Benjamin


Chapter 1 examines the importance of public education to occupational outcomes and intergenerational mobility. The UK's 1870 Education Act, which introduced a public education system in England and Wales, provides a unique historical context in which to explore this. Using newly digitized historical records and a regression kink design, I find that public school access improved a child's chance of obtaining an occupation requiring literacy in adulthood by as much as 13 pp. To study the reform's effect on intergenerational mobility, I link father-son pairs across time using full-count historical censuses. I find that by targeting the lower classes, public school introduction significantly improved intergenerational mobility, decreasing the adult outcome gap between high- and low- class children by over 10%. Chapter 2 demonstrates how legislation can change the incentives for human capital accumulation in resource-dependant communities, and in doing so help insure against future resource busts. I examine the UK's 1860 Mining Act, which made literacy or schooling a prerequisite for children seeking to work in mines. Using a triple difference specification and full-count census records linked across decades, I find that by decreasing the opportunity cost and increasing the returns to schooling, the Act led to increased human capital acquisition among the children of coal miners. This improved their likelihood of holding human capital-intensive occupations in adulthood, particularly among children residing in parishes that subsequently experienced mining busts. Chapter 3 explores the effects conflict continues to have on labour and marriage markets even after the shooting stops. Using variation in First World War death rates across British communities, I find higher conflict death rates are associated with a fall in poverty, particularly among men, and an increase in employment, particularly among women. Together, these results suggest that while high death rates improved labour market conditions for those left behind, widowed women were likely forced into the labour market to avoid poverty. Finally, I demonstrate that war-induced falls in the sex-ratio led to increases in out-of-wedlock births, confirming previous findings showing that men often utilize marriage market bargaining power to shirk childcare responsibility.

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