Publication: Measuring Ancient Inequality

Thumbnail Image
Files in English
English PDF (599.96 KB)
872 downloads

English Text (190.15 KB)
442 downloads
Date
2007-11
ISSN
Published
2007-11
Author(s)
Lindert, Peter H.
Williamson, Jeffrey G.
Abstract
Is inequality largely the result of the Industrial Revolution? Or, were pre-industrial incomes and life expectancies as unequal as they are today? For want of sufficient data, these questions have not yet been answered. This paper infers inequality for 14 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 around 1790, to China in 1880 and to British India in 1947. It applies two new concepts in making those assessments - what the authors call the inequality possibility frontier and the inequality extraction ratio. Rather than simply offering measures of actual inequality, the authors compare the latter with the maximum feasible inequality (or surplus) that could have been extracted by the elite. The results, especially when compared with modern poor countries, give new insights in to the connection between inequality and economic development in the very long run.
Link to Data Set
Citation
Milanovic, Branko; Lindert, Peter H.; Williamson, Jeffrey G.. 2007. Measuring Ancient Inequality. Policy Research Working Paper; No. 4412. © World Bank, Washington, DC. http://hdl.handle.net/10986/7630 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
Report Series
Other publications in this report series
  • Publication
    Corruption as a Push and Pull Factor of Migration Flows: Evidence from European Countries
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-09-14) Bernini, Andrea ; Bossavie, Laurent ; Garrote Sanchez, Daniel ; Makovec, Mattia
    Conclusive evidence on the relationship between corruption and migration has remained scant in the literature to date. Using data from 2008 to 2018 on bilateral migration flows across European Union and European Free Trade Association countries and four measures of corruption, this paper shows that corruption acts as both a push factor and a pull factor for migration patterns. Based on a gravity model, a one-unit increase in the corruption level in the origin country is associated with a 11 percent increase in out-migration. The same one-unit increase in the destination country is associated with a 10 percent decline in in-migration.
  • Publication
    Rebel with a Cause: Effects of a Gender Norms Intervention for Adolescents in Somalia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-09-15) Brar, Rajdev ; Buehren, Niklas ; Papineni, Sreelakshmi ; Sulaiman, Munshi
    Gender inequality and restrictive norms are often reinforced and internalized during adolescence, influencing pivotal life choices. This paper presents results from a randomly-assigned gender norms intervention for young adolescents in Somalia that led to greater support for gender equality in reported attitudes among both girls and boys. In a novel lab-in-the-field experiment designed to observe social group dynamics, treated adolescents were also found to be less likely to succumb to peer pressure to conform when stating their gender attitudes in public. Perceptions of gender norms appears to shift for boys, leading to a greater public expression of gender egalitarian ideals. Furthermore, the findings show improved adolescent mental health, increased caring behavior towards siblings of the opposite sex, and a higher likelihood of involvement in household chores by boys. A complementary gender norms intervention for parents had limited marginal impact on the attitudes and behaviors of adolescents. The results suggest that gender norms interventions can be effective in influencing the attitudes and public discourse around gender equality, even in early adolescence.
  • Publication
    Policy Uncertainty and Aggregate Fluctuations: Evidence from Emerging and Developed Economies
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-09-12) Mumtaz, Haroon ; Ruch, Franz Ulrich
    This paper identifies two types of policy uncertainty measures–government spending and real interest rates–and their impact on macroeconomic activity in 54 advanced, emerging, and developing economies. Policy uncertainty is defined as the inability to predict policy moves, that is, the conditional volatility of policy shocks. This is achieved in a panel vector autoregression model which allows, but does not require, the stochastic volatility of identified shocks to have direct and dynamic effects on macroeconomic outcomes. It shows that fiscal and monetary policy uncertainty are damaging to economic activity and act like negative supply shocks: raising prices while lowering output, investment and consumption. A one standard deviation government spending uncertainty shock decreases real gross domestic product (GDP) by a cumulative 1.0 percentage point and marginally increases inflation after two years. A one standard deviation real interest rate uncertainty shock lowers real GDP by a cumulative 1.3 percentage points after two years but raises inflation by 0.5 percentage point.
  • Publication
    Identifying Skills Needs in Vietnam: The Survey of Detailed Skills
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-09-12) Granata, Julia ; Moroz, Harry ; Nguyen, Nga Thi
    This paper describes a new survey designed to collect comprehensive and granular information about required skills and tasks for detailed occupations in Vietnam. The Survey of Detailed Skills asks workers in Vietnam about their skills and tasks for a set of 30 occupations that are in demand or of strategic importance for economic growth. In doing so, the survey generates practical, detailed information at the occupation level that policy makers and practitioners can use to inform their efforts to build skills in Vietnam. The Survey of Detailed Skills makes several contributions. Most existing efforts to profile occupational skills and tasks in developing countries draw on data from other countries, most frequently the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) in the United States. However, recent research has shown that translating these data across countries via occupational crosswalks yields inaccurate results. The Survey of Detailed Skills is among the first surveys to collect detailed O*NET-type information at the detailed occupational level in a developing country setting. The collection of information about detailed skills means that these skills can be flexibly grouped into different categories (for example, socioemotional skills, digital skills, routine skills, and interpersonal skills) as needed. The use of a consistent scale anchored to the time spent using or performing a skill or task creates clarity for respondents while also yielding a measure of skill and task importance that is easily interpreted. The Survey of Detailed Skills requires outlays on administering the survey, and inclusion of all occupations in Vietnam with regular updating would require ongoing investment.
  • Publication
    Savings Facilitation or Capital Injection?: Impacts and Spillovers of Livelihood Interventions in Post-Conflict Côte d’Ivoire
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-09-12) Marguerie, Alicia ; Premand, Patrick
    Policy makers grapple with the optimal design of multidimensional strategies to improve poor households’ livelihoods. To address financial constraints, are capital injections needed, or is savings mobilization sufficient This paper tests the direct effects and local spillovers of three instruments to relax financial constraints, each combined with micro-entrepreneurship training. “Cash grants” and “cash grants with repayment” directly inject capital, while “village savings and loan associations” (VSLAs) promote more efficient group saving. The randomized controlled trial took place in western regions of Côte d’Ivoire that were affected by a post-electoral crisis in 2011 and an earlier conflict. The interventions had differential effects on the dynamics of savings and productive asset accumulation. The cash grant modalities generated investments in startup capital, although nearly 30 percent of the grant was saved. In contrast, village savings and loan associations did not increase total savings but gradually induced investments, so that productive assets caught up with cash grant recipients after 15 months. Positive local spillovers on savings and independent activities were also observed. Yet, investments in independent activities were not sufficient to increase profits, possibly because they were limited due to high precautionary saving motives in the post-conflict study setting.
Journal
Journal Volume
Journal Issue
Associated URLs
Associated content
Citations