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.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
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)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Goldsmith, Raymond W, 1984. "An Estimate of the Size and Structure of the National Product of the Early Roman Empire," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 30(3), pages 263-88, September.
- Branko Milanovic, 2005.
"An Estimate Of Average Income And Inequality In Byzantium Around Year 1000,"
- Branko Milanovic, 2006. "An Estimate Of Average Income And Inequality In Byzantium Around Year 1000," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 52(3), pages 449-470, 09.
- Klaus Deininger & Lyn Squire, 1996.
"A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality,"
CEMA Working Papers
512, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
- Collier, Paul & Hoeffler, Anke, 2000.
"Greed and grievance in civil war,"
Policy Research Working Paper Series
2355, The World Bank.
- Kuznets, Simon, 1976. " Demographic Aspects of the Size Distribution of Income: An Exploratory Essay," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 1-94, October.
- Gary S. Becker & Tomas J. Philipson & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2003.
"The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality,"
NBER Working Papers
9765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Gary S. Becker & Tomas J. Philipson & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2005. "The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 277-291, March.
- Lindert, Peter H. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1982. "Revising England's social tables 1688-1812," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 385-408, October.
- Hongyi Li & Lyn Squire & Tao Zhang & Heng-fu Zou, 1999.
"A Data Set on Income Distribution,"
CEMA Working Papers
575, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
- Thomas Piketty, 2005. "Top Income Shares in the Long Run: An Overview," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 382-392, 04/05.
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page. reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.Access and download statisticsgeneral information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ekkehart Schlicht).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.