The richest families in Florence, Italy today have been the richest families for 600 years, according to a study by two economists, Guglielmo Barone and Sauro Mocetti.
They compared Florentine taxpayers from 1427 to those in recent tax records. When comparing the wealthiest families then to those with the same last names today, the richest families remain the same.
The economists were able to use newly available data of taxpayers from 1427 that had been digitized and made publicly available online to show how little economic mobility existed at the highest levels.
Researchers admit that there are limits when tracing wealth using last names, but the economists pointed out that Italian last names are highly regional and tend to be passed on. The families at the top of society six centuries ago are still ruling over everyone else.
It is very telling that these families have been able to maintain their wealth through so many political social and economic changes, world wars and dictators.
It isn’t just in Florence where social mobility is virtually non-existent at the highest levels of society. Researchers have demonstrated that in England, a family’s position in society can persist for more than eight centuries, or 30 generations.