Pre-Industrial Inequality

18 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2011

See all articles by Branko Milanovic

Branko Milanovic

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG); University of Maryland

Peter H. Lindert

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Jeffrey G. Williamson

Harvard University - Department of Economics, Laird Bell Professor of Economics, Emeritus; Honorary Fellow, University of Wisconsin - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Abstract

Is inequality largely the result of the Industrial Revolution? Or, were pre-industrial incomes as unequal as they are today? This article infers inequality across individuals within each of the 28 pre-industrial societies, for which data were available, using what are known as social tables. It applies two new concepts: the inequality possibility frontier and the inequality extraction ratio. They compare the observed income inequality to the maximum feasible inequality that, at a given level of income, might have been extracted by those in power. The results give new insights into the connection between inequality and economic development in the very long run.

Suggested Citation

Milanovic, Branko and Lindert, Peter H. and Williamson, Jeffrey G., Pre-Industrial Inequality. The Economic Journal, Vol. 121, No. 551, pp. 255-272, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1762430 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0297.2010.02403.x

Branko Milanovic (Contact Author)

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
MSN3-311
Washington, DC 20433
United States
202-473-6968 (Phone)
202-522-1153 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://econ.worldbank.org/staff/bmilanovic

University of Maryland ( email )

College Park
College Park, MD 20742
United States

Peter H. Lindert

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Jeffrey G. Williamson

Harvard University - Department of Economics, Laird Bell Professor of Economics, Emeritus ( email )

Littauer Center
Room 216
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-2438 (Phone)
617-496-7352 (Fax)

Honorary Fellow, University of Wisconsin - Department of Economics

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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