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A short history of global inequality: The past two centuries

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  • Milanovic, Branko

Abstract

Using social tables, we make an estimate of global inequality (inequality among world citizens) in early 19th century. We then show that the level and composition of global inequality have changed over the last two centuries. The level has increased reaching a high plateau around 1950s, and the main determinants of global inequality have become differences in mean country incomes rather than inequalities within nations. The inequality extraction ratio (the percentage of total inequality that was extracted by global elites) has remained surprisingly stable, at around 70% of the maximum global Gini, during the last 100years.

Suggested Citation

  • Milanovic, Branko, 2011. "A short history of global inequality: The past two centuries," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 494-506.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:48:y:2011:i:4:p:494-506 DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2011.05.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Milanovic, Branko & Lindert, Peter & Williamson, Jeffrey, 2007. "Measuring Ancient Inequality," MPRA Paper 5388, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Milanovic, Branko, 2009. "Global inequality recalculated : the effect of new 2005 PPP estimates on global inequality," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5061, The World Bank.
    3. Modalsli, Jørgen, 2011. "Inequality and growth in the very long run: inferring inequality from data on social groups," Memorandum 11/2011, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    4. Branko Milanovic & Peter H. Lindert & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2011. "Pre‐Industrial Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(551), pages 255-272, March.
    5. Prados De La Escosura, Leandro, 2008. "Inequality, poverty and the Kuznets curve in Spain, 1850–2000," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(03), pages 287-324, December.
    6. 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.
    7. George Deltas, 2003. "The Small-Sample Bias of the Gini Coefficient: Results and Implications for Empirical Research," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(1), pages 226-234, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. María Gómez-León, 2015. "The Rise of the Middle Class, Brazil (1839-1950)," Working Papers 0091, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    2. Salvador Pueyo, 2014. "Ecological Econophysics for Degrowth," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(6), pages 1-53, May.
    3. Branko Milanovic, 2012. "Global Inequality: From Class to Location, from Proletarians to Migrants," Global Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 3(2), pages 125-134, May.
    4. Francisco J. Beltran Tapia & Julio Martinez-Galarrage, 2015. "Inequality and poverty in a developing economy: Evidence from regional data (Spain, 1860-1930)," Working Papers 0078, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    5. Facundo Alvaredo & Leonardo Gasparini, 2013. "Recent Trends in Inequality and Poverty in Developing Countries," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0151, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.

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