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The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire

34 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2008 Last revised: 25 Jan 2009

Steven J. Friesen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Walter Scheidel

Stanford University

Date Written: January 22, 2009

Abstract

Different ways of estimating the Gross Domestic Product of the Roman Empire in the second century CE produce convergent results that point to total output and consumption equivalent to 50 million tons of wheat or close to 20 billion sesterces per year. It is estimated that elites (around 1.5 per cent of the imperial population) controlled approximately one-fifth of total income while middling households (perhaps 10 percent of the population) consumed another fifth. These findings shed new light on the scale of economic inequality and the distribution of demand in the Roman world.

Keywords: Roman economy, Roman GDP, Roman inequality

JEL Classification: N10, N13, O11

Suggested Citation

Friesen, Steven J. and Scheidel, Walter, The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire (January 22, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1299313 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1299313

Steven Friesen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Walter Scheidel (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-2145
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www,stanford.edu/~scheidel

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