David Seim: Inequality and Public Policies

ECON 2350B
Fall 2018

This course on economic inequality provides an overview of the most recent empirical research on the extent, the anatomy and the historical evolution of inequality. In addition to these descriptives, it focuses on the causes of inequality, covering research designs from the research frontier. The course also reviews the role of government policies, such as anti-poverty programs and progressive taxes on income and on capital, in affecting inequality.

Why is inequality high and why has it grown?

In the first part, we examine the literature on economic inequality from a fairly descriptive angle. In the second part of the course, we focus on the determinants of inequality. How much of the skewed wealth distribution is driven by self-made fortunes versus inherited wealth? How can educational reforms affect the distribution of income as adults? The third part of the course discusses the public opinion on inequality. Models in political economy predict that an increase in economic inequality will be met by an increase in redistributive policies. Yet, this has not been the case during the last decades. How should we think about the formation of political preferences in conjunction with trends in inequality?


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