Income inequality, is it getting better or worse as time passes by?

There are often strong arguments about the level of income inequality in any modern society, and it is seen as being a fundamentally bad thing (or at least I haven’t heard somebody who is trying to convince the world it is a good thing). However, this issue is not a modern one, and this is demonstrated by looking at the divergence from mean income that one would find in Roman society (see table below).

This was in the presentation by Branko Milanovic at the European Historical Economic Society conference which was held here in Dublin this September (2011). What it shows is that Senators enjoyed an income of 513 times the mean income, Equestrian order was over 68 times etc. So again, you had a situation (even 2000 yrs ago) where c. 2% of the population earned most of the income.

So the debate continues, but the problem is millennia old and has yet to be solved!

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