On the Age at Leaving Home in the Early Nineteenth Century: Evidence from the Lives of New England Manufacturers

David W. Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 1706
Issued in September 1985
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

Much recent research has focussed on some decisions that affected family composition in the past, including the determination of the age of marriage and the timing of fertility. This paper considers another such decision that has been relatively neglected, the determination of the age at which children left the parental home. Observations drawn from a collection of biographies of successful New England manufacturers, most of whom departed from their parents' homes in the first half of the nineteenth century, indicated that their age of departure was concentrated in the late teen ages and early twenties, with a median of 18 years. Multivariate analysis suggested that the age at which these men had left home varied directly with family income or wealth and inversely with the opportunity cost of their retention at home. Sons whose fathers had died tended to leave home earlier than otherwise, as did those whose first job away from home was in the employ of a relative, while those whose families invested more in their formal education appear to have stayed home longer.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w1706

Published: Galenson, David W. "On the Age at Leaving Home in the Early Nineteenth Century: Evidence from the Lives of New England Manufacturers," Social Science History, Vol. 11, No. 4, Winter 1987, pp. 355-78.

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