Occupational Structure, Dissent and Educational Commitment, Lancashire, 1841

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JAI Press / Emerald Publishing Limited


This paper examines the relationships between occupational structure, dissent, and educational commitment in a sample of seventeen commercial and manufacturing localities in Lancashire in 1841. In this sample the structure of educational systems as measured by the mix of Sunday and day schooling varies systematically with differences in occupational structure, independently of differences in rates of population increase (which do not have a statistically significant effect on such structures) and measures of religious dissent (which do). This statistical evidence in conjunction with documentary evidence (also discussed) leads to the rejection of a class of hypotheses based on the proposition that Sunday schools were primarily an imperfect substitute for day schools, relied on in certain areas because of (1) high foregone earnings associated with day schooling, or (2) inelastic supply curves for day schools in the face of rapidly growing populations, or (3) relatively low income levels. Rather, it is argued that Sunday schools specialized in religious instruction and moral regeneration, day schools in writing and arithmetic as well as reading, and that different occupational clusters had different relative demands for these two types of outputs. The paper includes a discussion of how these results modify the conclusions of previous research in this area, as well as a brief comparative discussion of educational development in Lancashire and Massachusetts, in the light of a comparison of the occupational structure of the two regions.

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