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Within National Inequalities: from Pareto to Piketty (Series of lectures in a course)


Credits: 4 ECTS

Second semester

Pathway core courses




The course is divided into three parts. The first part is introductory. It discusses the methodology used in the work on inequality and the data sources. What are our key metrics of welfare and thus of inequality? How do we define income or consumption?  Should differences in income between individuals be measured in absolute or relative terms? Should we look at income before transfers and taxes or after? Do we look at households or individuals or both? How are top incomes treated in household surveys and fiscal data? Do we include the poorest people?  Where do we find the data from which to calculate income or consumption inequality? Is wealth different from income and consumption, and how?

The second part reviews the most important theories of Methodologypersonal income distribution. Interest in personal income distribution goes back to about 100 years ago, and is thus relatively recent compared to the interest in the functional distribution of income (between labor=workers, capital=capitalists and land=landowners).

After a review of theories, we shall look at the past 30 years which have seen a steady and, at times apparently unstoppable, rise in inequality in about 2/3 of the countries worldwide. We shall review regional evidence, starting with the rich world, then the emerging market economies (China),  and completing with post-Communist transition countries. Particularly interesting because it is bucking the trend, is the decrease of inequality in high-inequality countries like Brazil.


The final exam will be consist of two or three essay questions. The grading weights will be as follow: class participation 30%, presentation 30%, final exam 40%.