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The Nature of Privilege: Intergenerational Wealth in Animal Societies
  • Jennifer Smith,
  • Barbara Horowitz,
  • Michael Alfaro
Jennifer Smith
Mills College
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Barbara Horowitz
University of California Los Angeles Department of Medicine
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Michael Alfaro
University of California Los Angeles
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Abstract

Rampant structural inequality exists across human societies, exerting a powerful influence on the health of individuals around the globe. Differential access to -- and variation in -- material wealth contributes greatly to this imbalance. Intergenerational transfer of material wealth can advantage some individuals over less fortunate individuals, shaping divergent destinies and creating a hierarchy of privilege. This concept is familiar within the context of human economic and social systems, but we argue that privilege is not a uniquely human phenomenon. Rather, privilege has evolved multiple times and its phylogenetic reach may be startlingly widespread across the Tree of Life, raising the provocative possibility that comparative study of privilege may offer insights leading to effective strategies countering inequality in human societies.