Spring 2020 - 58635 - PA 393L - Advanced Policy Economics


Inequality is an economic, sociological, legal, political, moral, mathematical and statistical fact. It can be understood and judged from many different perspectives. This class will explore some of those perspectives with particular emphasis on the economic angles, but allowing students to bring their knowledge, interests and concerns to bear in research and presentations.

This class will devote time to understanding how inequality is measured and what the evidence shows, for countries and regions around the world. We shall also explore the political and moral dimensions, the question of inequalities by race and gender, the relationship between inequality and instability in economic growth, and the structural relationship between inequality and phases of economic development.

The topic is vast and our approach will be eclectic. There will be some emphasis on the element I have worked on most, which is the clear evaluation of available evidence, especially related to measurement of income inequalities, the problem of inferring reasonable measures from diverse and uneven data sources, uncovering relationships and patterns of change in inequality at the national, continental and global levels, and drawing reasonable inferences from often-murky information.

While this is primarily a class on economic inequality, students interested in other dimensions such as legal and social inequalities and inequalities of opportunity and access to services are welcome and encouraged to explore those issues. There will be approximately equal attention to the issues raised by inequalities in the United States and those in other parts of the world, as well as inequalities between countries.

This is a seminar. Each student will be expected to prepare and to write a research paper and to present their work in class. The paper will be done in two parts. A first part, containing the core argument and a good review of the relevant literature, will be due at the end of Spring Break. I will review and return these efforts, which will then be developed into a full paper by the end of the class.

In addition, for the first two or three classes, students will be asked to prepare a 1-page, typed memorandum on the readings, to be used as the basis for interventions in class. These should not be reading notes, but a succinct summary of some key arguments. I will collect these and review them briefly.

We have placed excerpts and selected chapters from the readings on Canvas. The work of the University of Texas Inequality Project is on-line at http://utip.lbj.utexas.edu. Students planning to take this course are encouraged to browse the working papers, especially the earlier ones which deal with basic issues of method.