The Origins of Inequality: Insiders, Outsiders, Elites, and Commoners

TitleThe Origins of Inequality: Insiders, Outsiders, Elites, and Commoners
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsDow GK, Reed CG
JournalJournal of Political Economy
Volume121
Issue3
Pagination609-641
Date Published06/2013
AbstractHereditary economic inequality is unknown among mobile foragers, but hereditary class distinctions between elites and commoners exist in some sedentary foraging societies. With agriculture, such stratification tends to become more pronounced. We develop a model to explain the associations among productivity, population, property rights, and inequality. Using Malthusian dynamics, we show that regional productivity growth leads to enclosure of the best sites first, creating inequality between insiders and outsiders. Hereditary elite and commoner classes subsequently arise at the best sites. Food consumption becomes more unequal and commoners become poorer. These predictions are consistent with a wide range of archaeological evidence.
URLhttp://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/670741
DOI10.1086/670741