DP51 | From Survey to Sample: Labor Market Data for Interwar London

Publication Date


JEL Code(s)


Programme Area(s)



Economists engaged in theoretical and empirical work are divided over the extent to which labour market outcomes should be characterized as equilibrium or disequilibrium phenomena. To a remarkable extent, empirical tests of the competing views have been based on interwar data. Recent research on British unemployment in the interwar period has proven expecially controversial. This paper describes a new microdata set which can be used to study the operation of the British labour market and the incidence of interwar unemployment. The data set is a sample of households drawn from the records of the New Survey of London Life and Labour, conducted in the years 1928-32 at the London School of Economics. We describe the problems which arose in the course of our efforts to extract from the archives a random sample of cases and the ways these problems were resolved. We indicate also the limitations of the original survey design and their implications for economic and historical investigations attempting to utilize these materials.