While movements like Occupy Wall Street brought forth the issue of wealth inequality to the masses, inequality is definitely not a new issue.
In fact, it goes back as far as human history itself, according to a new archaeological study, and often leads to societal disruption.
The study, conducted by Washington State University and 13 other institutions, gathered data from 63 different archaeological sites, and analyzed the size of the houses within the sites.
They used a measurement called a Gini coefficient, which ranges from complete equality (0) to complete inequality (1).
They found that early hunter-gatherer societies had more wealth equality, since there wasn’t much chance to acquire wealth or property, or pass it onto future generations.
As agriculture boomed, wealth inequality began to rise. This eventually led to the wealthy gaining more and more land, while the poor were blocked from owning land and doomed to a life of peasantry.
The highest inequality was measured in the ancient Old World at 0.59, similar to modern-day Greece or Spain.
For comparison, the United States is currently even higher, with a Gini of between 0.81 and 0.85. This concerns the researchers, because it leads to poorer health, less social mobility, and less trust between individuals in a given society.
If you’re wondering how this can be fixed, the short answer is violently. The researchers say that decreases in inequality usually come about through plague, revolution, mass warfare or state collapse.
Is the United States on the brink of a revolution? History points to yes.