The Economic History Review

Historical social stratification and mobility in Costa Rica, 1840–2006

Volume 74 Issue 3
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Pages: 666-690Authors: Daniel Diaz Vidal
Published online: October 26, 2020DOI: 10.1111/ehr.12992

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Using both rare and ethnically identified surnames, this study tracks the economic status of social groups in Costa Rica between 1840 and 2006. The results show that, despite its relative equality compared to most of Latin America, social mobility rates in Costa Rica were low, with an intergenerational correlation of status at the surname level near 0.8. Social mobility rates in recent years have been as low as they were in the nineteenth century. Interestingly, however, these low rates of mobility are no worse than those in Chile, England, or Sweden in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There is no indication that Costa Rica was an unusually immobile society, despite its ethnic differences and Latin America’s reputation for low social mobility rates.