Economic inequality is the difference between
the haves and the have nots in any society. I’m Tim Kohler, I’m an archaeologist at
Washington State University. Archaeologists have always been interested in inequality. In the societies that we study, we look at differences in house sizes to
determine who is wealthy and who is not. I conducted this research with a group of
researchers from all over the world. We have measured house societies in dozens of ancient
societies representing hundreds of archaeological sites and thousands of households. Human societies have always had some degree
of inequality, even in hunter and gather societies, but these inequalities accelerate with the
advent of agriculture, and then with rise of the state. Economic inequality has a number of potentially
pernicious effects if it gets too high, it can have poor effects on health outcomes, it can
cause a lack of social mobility within a society, it can perhaps even make a society less stable. This research is important because we are
poised at high levels of wealth inequality now in many Western countries including, especially in the United States. One of the things we found was that when people
are born into a society, they tend to think that the conditions in that society have always
existed and are in some sense natural. What we understand by looking at archaeology
is that there are many ways to organize societies. Our present matter of organization is only one of those, there are other possibilities out there in the world.