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The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire*

  • Walter Scheidel (a1) and Steven J. Friesen (a2)
Abstract

Different methods of estimating the Gross Domestic Product of the Roman Empire in the second century C.E. produce convergent results that point to total output and consumption equivalent to 50 million tons of wheat or close to 20 billion sesterces per year. It is estimated that élites (around 1.5 per cent of the imperial population) controlled approximately one-fifth of total income, while middling households (perhaps 10 per cent of the population) consumed another fifth. These findings shed new light on the scale of economic inequality and the distribution of demand in the Roman world.

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The Journal of Roman Studies
  • ISSN: 0075-4358
  • EISSN: 1753-528X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-roman-studies
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