Gotta love this. Tim De Chant, at the Per Square Mile blogsite,points us to the work of two scholars – Walter Schniedel, of the Department of Classics at Stanford, and Steven Friesen, of the Department of Religious Studies at Texas – who published a fascinating paper, The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire, in The Journal of Roman Studies .
I’m still working through it – lots commanding my attention this week, so slow going – but the proverbial bottom line is this: ancient Rome, a glorious empire “built on conquest and slave labor,” as Dr. De Chant reminds us, had slightly less income inequality than the modern United States of America. The estimate is that, at the height of its reign, Rome had a Gini coefficient of between .42 and .44. The current Gini for America is .45.