This paper presents a theoretical model to show how distributional concerns can engender social conflict. We have a two-period model that highlights the crucial role of future inequality. Equality of assets and income in the current period does not stop conflict from arising the anticipated future inequality is significant. Further we find that the impact of inequality on conflict is not straightforward. Societies with low levels of inequality show no conflict; groups engage in conflict only when inequality exceeds a certain threshold level. Additionally the model shows that the link between inequality and conflict may be non-monotonic. © 2013 The University of Manchester and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.