Inequality, Social

Douglas S. Massey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Although humans have existed for around 200 000 years, for most of their time on earth their societies were not characterized by much inequality. Despite some differentiation on the basis of age, gender, and kinship, people enjoyed relatively equal access to resources. Inequality begins to rise with the emergence of cities around 10 000 years ago, which yielded the first stratified class-based societies. Inequality rose quite dramatically with the industrialization and urbanization of society around 200 years ago, as more human interactions occurred in the context of markets. Because markets are socially embedded, different architectures for exchange, production, and consumption yield widely discrepant levels of inequality. Variations in equality reflect the degree to which categorical mechanisms of stratification, such as exploitation and opportunity, are built into societies and the markets they house, and the number and range of people who are subjected to nonmarket processes of discrimination and exclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


  • Categorical
  • Exploitation
  • Framing
  • Hoarding
  • Inequality
  • Opportunity
  • Stereotype content
  • Stratification


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