Discussion Papers 2018


"Who Grew Rich? Anatomy and Intergenerational Dynamics of Economic Elites under Japan's Modernization"

Author Name

Matsumoto, Tomoko, and Tetsuji Okazaki


March 2018

Full Paper

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Revised in January 2020.


The transition from a feudal to a modern society has a substantial impact on income distribution. We explore how transition to a modern society and its economic consequence, particularly industrialization, affected the composition and inter-generational mobility of top income people, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Japan. We analyze newly constructed individual-level data of economic elites on income, occupation, education, social stratum and family relationship, and find that the regime change and industrialization provided commonage people a new opportunity to grow rich and escape from the fetter of their social strata and fathers’ income, but that this process resulted in emergence of a new group of economic elites reproduced intergenerationally.