The aim of the course is to provide students with the analytical skills needed for a scientific understanding of the patterns of socio-economic inequality in contemporary societies. Attention will be given to the multi-dimensional nature of inequality, looking at a number of socio-economic outcomes including income, occupation, education; at its intergenerational transmission; at the history of inequality over time, both in a long- and short-run perspective. In terms of disciplines, the main reference will be sociological research on social stratification, but other disciplines will also be referred to, in particular labour economics; the sociology of education and social demography. Issues of definition and measurement will have a key role in the course, as to enable students to be able to evaluate which is the best analytical strategy for the issue at hands.
Expected learning outcomes
By the end of the course, students will have learned the foundations of inequality research. They will thus be able to study the distribution of inequality, as well as its changes over time, according to a number of complementary dimensions. Moreover, they will be able to understand the functioning of social reproduction from two complementary perspectives: the micro perspective, looking at the individual life course, from family of origin to occupational destination through the education system; and the macro perspective, which looks at the aggregate patterns of socio-economic inequality in comparison over time and space (international comparison). Students will also learn how scientific communication works, clearly distinguishing the steps of scientific research: literature review; hypothesis building; data collection; data analysis and discussion of the hypotheses.
Module 1: Social stratification and mobility: definitions. Occupations. Measurement issues: social classes and occupational scales. Mobility tables and their analysis. Module 2: Education. Educational systems and their change over time. Inequality of educational opportunities. Returns to education. Is education the great equalizer? Module 3: Income and wealth inequality. Origins and long-term trends of global development and of socio-economic inequality. Inequality and social stratification in the developing countries. Modules 1 and 2 are compulsory for the MLS students, all modules are compulsory for the GPS students. Students from different courses should get in touch with the instructor.
Prerequisites for admission
For a good understanding of the course, students are required to have some knowledge of basic math, statistics and data analysis; of modern and contemporary history (at high school-level), and of socio-economic theory, particularly rational choice theory.
The course is based on the instructor's presentations, which include both theoretical and empirical analyses. Students are welcome to ask questions in order for the class to be interactive.
Modules 1 and 2: D. B. Grusky, The Past, Present and Future of Social Inequality, in D. B. Grusky, ed. Social Stratification. Class, Race and Gender in Sociological Perspective, various editions, Boulder: Westview Press. Brint, S. G. (2017). Schools and societies. Stanford University Press. Erikson, R., Jonsson, J. O (1996), Explaining Class Inequality in Education: The Swedish Test Case, in Erikson, R., Jonsson, J. O, eds., Can Education be Equalized? The Swedish Case in Comparative Perspective, Boulder: Westview, pp. 1-63. Module 3: Milanovic, B. (2016), Global Inequalities, Harvard: Belknap.
Assessment methods and Criteria
For attending students, the exam will include a middle-term and a final test, both written test, taken during classes, including open questions and an elementary exercise of data analysis and interpretation. The exam will include all themes exposed in class by the instructor. For non-attending students, the exam will be strictly based on the textbooks, and include an exercise of interpretation of statistical results, as exposed in scientific journals.