Economics of Inequality

I am preparing a new course on the economics of inequality, to be offered for the first time in the Spring 2017 semester, under the Special Topics in Economics course title (Econ 3580). While as of now (November 27), I am still planning the details of course coverage, readings, and assignments, I decided to offer here a broad preview of the course for interested students.

The course requires only principles of microeconomics and macroeconomics (for the exact details, see the end of this web page).

Course outline: In broad terms, the course will cover the following topics.

  • Why do we care about economic inequality? The philosophical approach. Theories of justice, John Rawls.
  • Why do we care about economic inequality? The instrumental approach. Because many people have preferences regarding inequality (theories of fairness and reciprocity), because inequality affects economic growth.
  • Measurement of inequality.
  • Capital and inequality — Piketty and his critics.
  • Globalization and inequality.
  • Technology and inequality.
  • Gender and inequality.
  • Policy proposals to alleviate inequality.

Grading: there will be frequent quizzes on the readings, biweekly 1-2 page reaction papers, and a term paper of about 10 pages in which students will explore some theories, policy proposals, or statistical evidence in depth.

Texts: I have ordered three books from the Temple bookstore. These books are not textbooks, hence they do not come with stratospheric prices. However, they are very pertinent to the course content and they are written by experts in the field. The books:

  • Atkinson, Anthony, Inequality: What Can Be Done? Harvard University Press, 2015.
  • Milanovic, Branko, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization, Belknap / Harvard, 2016.
  • Piketty, Thomas, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Belknap / Harvard, 2014.

In addition to these books, the course will refer to research papers and the world income and wealth database, which can be found at

Mathematics preparation required: the limited mathematics to be used in the course will be explained in a self-contained manner in class and in online materials.  A good foundation in the mathematical techniques used in principles of microeconomics (and available in every introductory economics textbook, usually as an appendix) will be expected, but nothing more.

Prerequisites information from the undergraduate bulletin at :

ECON 3580. Special Topics. 3 Credit Hours.

Special topics in current developments in the field of economics.Repeatability: This course may be repeated for additional credit.

(ECON 1101|Minimum Grade of C-|May not be taken concurrently
OR ECON 1901|Minimum Grade of C-|May not be taken concurrently
OR MATH 1042|Minimum Grade of C-|May not be taken concurrently
OR MATH 1942|Minimum Grade of C-|May not be taken concurrently
OR MATH 1951|Minimum Grade of C-|May not be taken concurrently
OR MATH 2043 to 3080| Required Courses:1|Minimum Grade of C-|May be taken concurrently)
AND (ECON 1102|Minimum Grade of C-|May not be taken concurrently
OR ECON 1902|Minimum Grade of C-|May not be taken concurrently).