The Origins of Inequality: Insiders, Outsiders, Elites, and Commoners
Permanent economic inequality is unknown among mobile hunter-gatherers, but hereditary class distinctions between elites and commoners exist in some sedentary foraging societies. With the spread of agriculture, such stratification tends to become more pronounced. We develop a model to explain the associations among productivity, population density, and inequality. We show that regional productivity growth leads to enclosure of the best sites first, creating inequality between insiders and outsiders. This is followed by the emergence of elites and commoners at the best sites. As this process unfolds, elites and commoners have increasingly unequal food consumption. In some cases, the elite specializes in guarding land while relying entirely on the food produced by commoners. Our analysis is consistent with archaeological evidence from southern California, the northwest coast of North America, southwest Asia, and Polynesia.
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- Dow, Gregory K. & Reed, Clyde G., 2011. "Stagnation and innovation before agriculture," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 77(3), pages 339-350, March.
- Matthew J. Baker, 2003. "An Equilibrium Conflict Model of Land Tenure in Hunter-Gatherer Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(1), pages 124-173, February.
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