Economic Inequality (PEC4124.01)

Lopamudra Banerjee

This seminar is concerned with three key interrelated problems of studying economic inequality: [1] inequality of what? [2] how do inequality occur? and [3] why is equality undesirable?. The first is a question of description and measurement of the unevenness in people’s access to resources and opportunities in a society, the second is that of explaining the causes that drive this unevenness, and the third is an issue of distributive justice that explore why this distributional unevenness is morally unacceptable. We will start by considering two indicators of people’s economic well-being — (a) access to material resources (e.g., wealth, income, consumption expenditure) and (b) access to real opportunity for social mobility. We will explore how economic inequality in a society can be described and measured in terms of these focal variables. We will then look for the causal roots of inequality and consider the structural conditions that give rise to unequal distribution of resources and opportunities in society divided along the axes of class (to be described in terms of income and occupational status) and identity (to be described in terms of race and gender). We will then ponder about the ethical questions of equal distribution, and explore
ideas of economic egalitarianism.

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 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 will be taught through [A] group-tutorial meetings, [B] lectures-recitations, [C] independent study,
and [D] occasional data workshops. The course has two aims. [1] It is designed to help students gain an understanding of foundational theories of economic inequality, and master the applied tools necessary to create their own research. [2] It is devised to guide 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, self-guided investigation. Throughout this course, students will expand their capabilities of critical analytical thinking and progress in their capacities to inquire and self-directed research. For description of the capacities, see:
The broader objectives of the course are to give you a space to cultivate your capabilities as a critical analytical thinker and to engage with the others in a spirit of mutual appreciation, collaboration, and adventure.

Through this course, we shall reaffirm our commitment to pluralism, our appreciation for diverse voices, and an inclusiveness in our thoughts and actions. In this context, see:

Learning Outcomes:

Delivery Method: Hybrid
Prerequisites: The prerequisites for this course include at least one 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 November 15.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 3:40PM - 5:30PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 10
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: Hybrid , Four Credit , 4000 , All courses , Political Economy
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