fbpx The Causes and Consequences of Inequality | Harvard Kennedy School
David Deming Photo

David Deming

Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy
Professor of Public Policy, HKS; Professor of Education and Economics, HGSE

Why has earnings inequality in the U.S. and other developed countries increased so much since the 1970s? What are the consequences of rising inequality, and what can we do about it? This course provides an overview of what social science has to say about the causes and consequences of inequality, and engages students in a critical and balanced discussion of the positive and normative issues concerning rising inequality. Example topics include: 1) the key role of education and skills in rising inequality among the “99 percent”; 2) inequality in childhood and family environments, including schooling; 3) the role of changes in economic institutions such as unionization and the minimum wage; 4) rising wealth inequality, taxation and capital mobility; 5) global issues in inequality, including outsourcing, immigration and trade. We will also consider the consequences of rising inequality for political and social institutions in the U.S. and around the world, including (for example) political capture by elites and preferences for redistributive social policy. Course assignments will ask students to analyze and develop policy solutions for addressing rising inequality in the U.S. and around the world.

Also offered by the Graduate School of Education as A138 and the Economics Department as Econ 1084. This course forms a unified sequence with SUP-204 “Growth, Inequality, and the Income of Households” taught in the fall. While either course can be taken separately, taking them together as a sequence is recommended for students wanting to pursue a more in depth study of household incomes and inequality.