Brace yourself. A report by two professors, one from U.C. Davis, the other from Harvard, contends that income inequality in the United States today is more severe even than it was during the Revolution - with slavery factored in to boot.
The conclusion comes to us from an newly updated study by
professors Peter Lindert of the University of California - Davis and
Jeffrey Williamson of Harvard. Scraping together data from an array of
historical resources, the duo have written a fascinating exploration of
early American incomes, arguing that, on the eve of the Revolutionary
War, wealth was distributed more evenly across the 13 colonies than
anywhere else in the world that we have record of.
Suffice to say, times have changed.
we dive into their findings, a word of caution about the study. When
economists reach back this far into the thinly recorded the past,
they're not so much taking a snapshot of what life was like as they are
making a messy collage, collecting the disparate bits and pieces of
information we have available and fashioning them into a coherent
picture. In this case, Williamson and Lindert use occupational
directories, tax lists, post-revolutionary census documents, and earlier
scholarship, among other resources to build approximations of what
people earned when we were getting ready to start turning our muskets on
the British. Inherently, such a process involves lots of conjecture.
the end, the pair find that the colonies were an exceedingly
egalitarian place, financially, if not politically. read more here.