The Emergence of Inequality in Social Groups

From small communities to entire nations and society at large, inequality in wealth, social status, and power is one of the most pervasive and tenacious features of the social world. What causes inequality to emerge and persist? I look for causes of inequality in the structure and rules of our interactions. I use empirical evidence from 33 experiments on network cooperation games to investigate how network structure, network fluidity, reputation tracking, and punishment institutions affect the distribution of earnings. I then develop an agent-based model to replicate the clear empirical findings and provide possible explanations for the surprising ones. The simulation not only helps generate new testable hypotheses but also uncovers an overlooked limitation of the empirical analysis.

Milena Tsvetkova is a computational social scientist and uses large-scale online experiments, network analysis, and computational modeling to study fundamental social phenomena such as cooperation, contagion, segregation, and inequality. She is Assistant Professor at the Department of Methodology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Previously, Milena was a Postdoctoral Researcher in Computational Social Science at the Oxford Internet Institute. She received her PhD in Sociology from Cornell University in 2015.

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