fbpx The Causes and Consequences of Inequality | Harvard Kennedy School
Gordon Hanson Photo

Gordon Hanson

Peter Wertheim Professor in Urban Policy


Since 1980, inequality has increased sharply in the United States, select other high-income countries, and many emerging economies. Inequality in U.S. income and wealth today are at levels not seen since the end of the Gilded Age. These changes at the national level reflect widening disparities in earnings between less-educated workers and those with college or advanced degrees, the concentration of earnings at the very top of the income distribution, and growing divides in economic opportunity both across regions within countries and across neighborhoods within regions. In this course, we study the causes of inequality (including technological change, globalization, disparities in access to education, tax and regulatory policy, and gender and racial discrimination), the consequences of inequality for human well-being (in terms of consumption, health, and family structure), and the potential for public policies to improve access to economic opportunity (including early childhood education, assistance to needy families, subsidized health care, worker training, minimum wages, progressive taxation, anti-discrimination policies, place-based policies, and universal basic income). Students will acquire an understanding of the varied dimensions of inequality (by education, occupation, gender, race and ethnicity, place of residence, and national origin), analytical approaches to identifying the causal factors behind rising inequality, and familiarity with policy tools that govern access to opportunity and the post-tax distribution of income and wealth. The course is lecture based but will allow ample time for group discussion.