Intergenerational Wealth Transmission and the Dynamics of Inequality in Small-Scale Societies

Science 30 October 2009: Vol. 326 no. 5953 pp. 682-688 DOI: 10.1126/science.1178336

Posted: 27 Apr 2012

See all articles by Monique Borgerhoff Mulder

Monique Borgerhoff Mulder

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Samuel Bowles

Santa Fe Institute; University of Massachusetts

Tom Hertz

ERS

Adrian Bell

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Jan Beise

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Gregory Clark

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

Ila Fazzio

Independent

Michael Gurven

Independent

Kim Hill

University of New Mexico

Paul L. Hooper

Santa Fe Institute

William Irons

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Hillard S. Kaplan

University of New Mexico - Program in Interdisciplinary

Donna Leonetti

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Bobbi S Low

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Frank Marlowe

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Richard McElreath

University of California, Davis

Suresh Naidu

Columbia University

David Nolan

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Patrizio Piraino

University of Cape Town - Faculty of Commerce - School of Economics

Robert Quinlan

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Eric Schniter

Chapman University - George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics - Economic Science Institute

Rebecca Sear

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Mary Shenk

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Eric Alden Smith

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Christopher von Rueden

Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

Pauline W Wiessner

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: October 2009

Abstract

Small-scale human societies range from foraging bands with a strong egalitarian ethos to more economically stratified agrarian and pastoral societies. We explain this variation in inequality using a dynamic model in which a population’s long-run steady-state level of inequality depends on the extent to which its most important forms of wealth are transmitted within families across generations. We estimate the degree of intergenerational transmission of three different types of wealth (material, embodied, and relational), as well as the extent of wealth inequality in 21 historical and contemporary populations. We show that intergenerational transmission of wealth and wealth inequality are substantial among pastoral and small-scale agricultural societies (on a par with or even exceeding the most unequal modern industrial economies) but are limited among horticultural and foraging peoples (equivalent to the most egalitarian of modern industrial populations). Differences in the technology by which a people derive their livelihood and in the institutions and norms making up the economic system jointly contribute to this pattern.

Suggested Citation

Borgerhoff Mulder, Monique and Bowles, Samuel and Hertz, Thomas and Bell, Adrian and Beise, Jan and Clark, Gregory and Fazzio, Ila and Gurven, Michael and Hill, Kim and Hooper, Paul L. and Irons, William and Kaplan, Hillard S. and Leonetti, Donna and Low, Bobbi S and Marlowe, Frank and McElreath, Richard and Naidu, Suresh and Nolan, David and Piraino, Patrizio and Quinlan, Robert and Schniter, Eric and Sear, Rebecca and Shenk, Mary and Alden Smith, Eric and von Rueden, Christopher and Wiessner, Pauline W, Intergenerational Wealth Transmission and the Dynamics of Inequality in Small-Scale Societies (October 2009). Science 30 October 2009: Vol. 326 no. 5953 pp. 682-688 DOI: 10.1126/science.1178336. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1976081

Monique Borgerhoff Mulder (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Samuel Bowles

Santa Fe Institute ( email )

1399 Hyde Park Rd
Santa Fe, NM 87501
United States
505-984-8800 (Phone)
505-982-0565 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.santafe.edu

University of Massachusetts ( email )

Amherst, MA 01002
United States
413-545-2590 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~bowles/

Thomas Hertz

ERS ( email )

355 E Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024-3221
United States
202-694-5416 (Phone)

Adrian Bell

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Jan Beise

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Gregory Clark

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States

Ila Fazzio

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Michael Gurven

Independent ( email )

Kim Hill

University of New Mexico ( email )

107 Humanitites Building
Albuquerque, NM 87131-1221
United States

Paul L. Hooper

Santa Fe Institute ( email )

1399 Hyde Park Road
Santa Fe, NM 87501
United States

William Irons

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Hillard S. Kaplan

University of New Mexico - Program in Interdisciplinary ( email )

107 Humanitites Building
Albuquerque, NM 87131-1221
United States

HOME PAGE: http://pibbs.unm.edu/

Donna Leonetti

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Bobbi S Low

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Frank Marlowe

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Richard McElreath

University of California, Davis

One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
United States

Suresh Naidu

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

David Nolan

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Patrizio Piraino

University of Cape Town - Faculty of Commerce - School of Economics ( email )

South Africa

Robert Quinlan

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Eric Schniter

Chapman University - George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics - Economic Science Institute ( email )

One University Dr.
Orange, CA 92866
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/ericschniter/

Rebecca Sear

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Mary Shenk

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Eric Alden Smith

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Christopher Von Rueden

Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond ( email )

28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/chrisvonrueden/home

Pauline W Wiessner

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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