Economic Inequality (PEC4124.01)

Lopamudra Banerjee

The questions of inequality and distributive justice are central to any study of the economy. In this seminar, we will investigate the nature and sources of economic inequality, and explore various approaches to redistribution and distributive justice. Inequality can be examined as unevenness in the distribution of income and wealth in a population, as well as that of non-income indicators of living standards such as health and education of population members. More importantly, inequality can be analyzed as an asymmetry in people’s access to opportunities and advantages. We will examine each one of these ideas of inequality in this course. The course will be organized in three overlapping parts: We will start with a descriptive analyses of inequality and explore various ways to measure inequality in terms various focal variables. We will, then, explore the causal forces driving inequality in a population and study the prescriptive approaches to addressing inequality. We will, furthermore, explore the various principles of distributive justice to talk about what entails a just distribution of resources and outcomes in people’s economic lives.

This is an advanced-level research seminar designed for students in their third and fourth years of college. We will explore the key concepts in the course verbally and through written expositions, and use mathematical formulations to express the ideas in formal terms. The course will involve a close analysis of household-survey datasets. We will make use of the empirical findings to provide evidential support to our arguments. For this, prior knowledge of data analyses is desired and some familiarity with spreadsheet analyses of data is expected. Some prior knowledge of statistical theory/applications will be advantageous. Additionally, prior knowledge of economics is necessary to take this course.

The course has two aims. [1] It is designed to help students gain a critical understanding of foundational theories of economic inequality, and master the applied tools necessary to create their own research. [2] It is devised for guiding them in formulating their own thesis questions and provide empirical supports to their arguments. Students will be invited to expand their knowledge through active, self-determined investigation.

Throughout this course, students will expand their capabilities of critical analytical thinking and progress in their capacities to research, create and communicate.

The course will be taught through [A] asynchronous tutorial meetings [normally between two or three students and the course instructor] based around conversations on students’ research questions, together with [B] one two-hour long synchronous meeting each week to be attended by all students in class for lectures, data workshops, class discussions and collective sharing of ideas. Additionally, pre-recorded lectures on key topics will be made available to the students to give information and support their independent studying.

Learning Outcomes:

Delivery Method: Hybrid in-person and remote, with faculty in-person
Prerequisites:The prerequisites for this course include at least two prior courses in economics in addition to at least one prior 2000-level course in SCT. Prior knowledge of data analyses is desirable and some familiarity with spreadsheet analyses of data is expected. Some prior knowledge of statistical theory/applications will be advantageous. Also, approval of course instructor is required. Prioritization of registration: Students should email the course instructor with an expression of interest, and explain [in few sentences] [a] why they are interested in this course, [b] if the course fit with their academic plan, and, if yes, then how, [c] if they fulfill the prerequisites for the course and what courses [that would satisfy the prerequisite criterion] have they taken before [stating the course name and level of prior courses in economics/political economy, SCT, mathematics etc. The emails should be received by 12:00pm (noon) on Friday, May 29, 2020.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 8:30AM-12:10PM (1st seven weeks)
Maximum Enrollment: 10
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: All courses , Political Economy
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