- Pre-Industrial Inequality: An Early Conjectural Map
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- by Williamson, Jeffery G.; Milanovic, Branko; Lindert, Peter H.
- Did our pre-industrial ancestors have incomes and life expectancies as unequal as they
are today? Or is inequality largely the result of the Industrial Revolution? For want of
sufficient data, these questions have not yet been answered. This paper infers inequality
for 15 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 in 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 rent) that
could have been extracted by the elite. The results, especially when compared with
modern countries the world round, give new insights in to the connection between
inequality and economic development in the very long run.
- Publication Type: WCFIA Working Paper
- Published Date: August 23, 2007
- Field of Interest: International Economics
- Williamson, Jeffrey G., Branko Milanovic, and Peter H. Lindert. "Pre-Industrial Inequality: An Early Conjectural Map." Working Paper 2008-0117, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, August, 2007.