Why does the average person in the U.S. enjoy a higher level of economic welfare than the average person in Mexico or India? Why do men earn a higher wage for doing the same work as women? Why do whites have higher wealth levels than People of Color? Why are people poor, sometimes even if they have full-time jobs? Why are many workers in the U.S. undocumented, and have less access to employment and benefits? Are these differences just? These will be our guiding questions as we explore the current state of economic inequities across nations, race, gender, and class.
We will begin by developing the tools to understand the current state of income and wealth distribution. We will learn how to describe and analyze income distribution by class and nation, the gender wage gap, and the racial wealth gap. We will work to develop the analytical sophistication needed to see the complex intersections of these systems of power that may privilege white men, for example, but still produce poor white men and rich women of color.
In the process we will build our understanding of how we distinguish between unequal outcomes that are fair from those that are inconsistent with our values of justice and fair play. We will examine instances in which government actions have reinforced inequitable outcomes, such as the financial bailout of the banks after the 2008 financial crisis that resulted in thousands of homeowners losing their homes. We will also examine instances in which government actions have worked to reduce inequalities, such as the current move to increase the minimum wage.
Course Reference Numbers
economics, political science, political economy, gender studies, history, and public policy.