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An Estimate Of The Size Anl Structure Of The National Product Of The Early Roman Empire


  • Raymond W. Goldsmith


On the basis of rough estimates from the expenditure as well as from the income side, it is suggested that the national product per head of the Roman Empire at the death of Augustus (AD 14) was somewhat below 400 sesterces (31 g gold) yielding an aggregate national product of fully HS 20 billion for a population of 55 million and that these figures were approximately valid from the late first century BC to the mid‐second century AD. The share of government expenditures in national product was very low, probably not above five percent, and that of gross capital expenditures even lower, probably not in excess of two percent. An attempt is also made to appraise the concentration of personal income and it is estimated that the 600 senatorial families, representing approximately the top 0.04 per m of the population, received about 0.6 percent of total personal income while the share of the top three percent of income recipients was in the order of 20–25 percent of total personal incomes. The second part of the article compares these estimates as well as a few indicators of the standard of living and of welfare in the early Roman Empire with the corresponding figures for a few countries before the industrial revolution and for mid‐20th century less developed countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Raymond W. Goldsmith, 1984. "An Estimate Of The Size Anl 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 263-288, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:30:y:1984:i:3:p:263-288
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4991.1984.tb00552.x

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    Cited by:

    1. Milanovic, Branko & Lindert, Peter & Williamson, Jeffrey, 2007. "Measuring Ancient Inequality," MPRA Paper 5388, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. José Díaz & Rolf Lüders & Gert Wagner, "undated". "Economía Chilena 1810-1995: Evolución Cuantitativa del Producto Total y Sectorial," Documentos de Trabajo 186, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
    3. 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, September.
    4. McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen, 2009. "The Institution of Douglass North," MPRA Paper 21768, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Milanovic, Branko, 2013. "The return of “patrimonial capitalism”: review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st century," MPRA Paper 52384, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Peter Temin, 2006. "The Economy of the Early Roman Empire," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 133-151, Winter.
    7. Milanovic, Branko, 2010. "Income level and income inequality in the Euro-Mediterranean region: from the Principate to the Islamic conquest," MPRA Paper 46640, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Branko Milanovic, 2014. "The Return of "Patrimonial Capitalism": A Review of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 52(2), pages 519-534, June.
    9. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "How Prosperous were the Romans? Evidence from Diocletian`s Price Edict (301 AD)," Economics Series Working Papers 363, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

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