Inequality in the U.S.


Topics & readings. This interdisciplinary course focuses on economic inequality in the United States and its relationship to social and political inequality. Readings will be drawn primarily from the fields of political science, sociology, and economics. Readings will describe socioeconomic inequality, explore the interrelated factors that cause and reinforce it, examine the publics beliefs about economic inequality, and, finally, evaluate public and private efforts and proposals to reduce inequality. It is the perspective of this course that the phenomenon of economic inequality in the United States cannot be understood in full without taking into account systematic and interpersonal racial prejudice, particularly that experienced by Black Americans. Given the instructor’s disciplinary expertise, the course will also spend considerable time examining how economic inequality begets political inequality, and vice versa. Class activities & assignments. The course will be primarily discussion based. Informal, creative in-class activities will be incorporated to engage students and encourage active learning. With respect to formal assignments, students will complete short papers approximately every three weeks (timed to coincide with distinct course themes) that integrate knowledge gained through readings and discussion. Each student will complete a final paper that analyzes a specific topic (of her or his choice) that falls under the economic inequality umbrella. Students may build on a previously completed short paper and will be expected to incorporate several outside readings to supplement their analysis. Students will also take part in a group project (with one or two other students) that involves creating and pitching a concrete plan that would reduce economic inequality in the U.S. and/or ameliorate its negative effects.