Skip to main content


Smith, Eric Alden; Hill, Kim; Marlowe, Frank W.; Nolin, David A.; Wiessner, Polly; Gurven, Michael; Bowles, Samuel; Mulder, Monique Borgerhoff; Hertz, Tom; & Bell, Adrian (2010). Wealth Transmission and Inequality among Hunter-Gatherers. Current Anthropology, 51(1), 19-34. PMCID: PMC2999363


We report quantitative estimates of intergenerational transmission and population-wide inequality for wealth measures in a set of hunter-gatherer populations. Wealth is defined broadly as factors that contribute to individual or household well-being, ranging from embodied forms, such as weight and hunting success, to material forms, such as household goods, as well as relational wealth in exchange partners. Intergenerational wealth transmission is low to moderate in these populations but is still expected to have measurable influence on an individual’s life chances. Wealth inequality (measured with Gini coefficients) is moderate for most wealth types, matching what qualitative ethnographic research has generally indicated (if not the stereotype of hunter-gatherers as extreme egalitarians). We discuss some plausible mechanisms for these patterns and suggest ways in which future research could resolve questions about the role of wealth in hunter-gatherer social and economic life.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Current Anthropology


Smith, Eric Alden
Hill, Kim
Marlowe, Frank W.
Nolin, David A.
Wiessner, Polly
Gurven, Michael
Bowles, Samuel
Mulder, Monique Borgerhoff
Hertz, Tom
Bell, Adrian