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.
|Date of creation:||Jul 2009|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada|
Web page: http://www.sfu.ca/economics.html
More information through EDIRC
|Order Information:|| Postal: Working Paper Coordinator, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada|
Web: http://www.sfu.ca/economics/research/publications.html Email:
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.:
- 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.
- de Meza, David & Gould, J R, 1992. "The Social Efficiency of Private Decisions to Enforce Property Rights," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 561-580, June.