The Big Sort: Selective Migration and the Decline of Northern England, 1800-2017

Neil Cummins webpage at LSE

The Big Sort: Selective Migration and the Decline of Northern England, 1800-2017 (joint with Gregory Clark)

Abstract: The north of England in recent years has been poorer, less healthy, less educated and slower growing than the south. Using two sources - surnames that had a different regional distribution in England in the 1840s, and a detailed genealogy of 78,000 people in England giving birth and death locations - we show that the decline of the north is mainly explained by selective outmigration of the educated and talented. Surnames associated with the north in 1840, for example, show no disadvantage relative to those associated with the south in terms of educational attainment, occupation, and political power in 2017 in England as a whole. Similarly, in the individual genealogies migrants from the north were more educated, wealthier, and have higher occupational status than the resident southern population, even back in 1800. But stayers in the north were less educated, poorer, and with lower occupational status. This implies that policies designed to aid the population in the north in the form of regional investments, or encouragement of migration south, are likely to be ineffective in boosting outcomes for the remaining northern population.