Measuring Ancient Inequality
AbstractIs inequality largely the result of the Industrial Revolution? Or, were pre-industrial incomes and life expectancies as unequal as they are today? For want of sufficient data, these questions have not yet been answered. This paper infers inequality for 14 ancient, pre-industrial societies using what are known as social tables, stretching from the Roman Empire 14 AD, to Byzantium in 1000, to England in 1688, to Nueva España around 1790, to China in 1880 and to British India in 1947. It applies two new concepts in making those assessments – what we call the inequality possibility frontier and the inequality extraction ratio. Rather than simply offering measures of actual inequality, we compare the latter with the maximum feasible inequality (or surplus) that could have been extracted by the elite. The results, especially when compared with modern poor countries, give new insights in to the connection between inequality and economic development in the very long run.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 5388.
Date of creation: Oct 2007
Date of revision:
Inequality possibility frontier; pre-industrial inequality; history;
Other versions of this item:
- Jeffrey G. Williamson & Branko Milanovic & Peter H. Lindert, 2008. "Measuring Ancient Inequality," Working Papers 08-06, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
- Milanovic,Branko & Lindert, Peter H. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 2007. "Measuring ancient inequality," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4412, The World Bank.
- Branko Milanovic & Peter H. Lindert & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2007. "Measuring Ancient Inequality," NBER Working Papers 13550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
- D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
- O1 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2007-10-27 (All new papers)
- NEP-CNA-2007-10-27 (China)
- NEP-HPE-2007-10-27 (History & Philosophy of Economics)
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