Why is there so much income inequality?

Why has income inequality increased so spectacularly in the last 40 years? The conventional wisdom is that it’s the by-product of the invisible hand, that we must simply tolerate such market-generated inequality, and that our only hope is to ramp up redistribution. The purpose of my research is to explore whether the takeoff can instead be attributed to market failure and the ever-increasing rent collected at the top of the income distribution. A selection of relevant readings (and go here for a full list of relevant work):

Social mobility in the New Gilded Age

Is the takeoff in income inequality bringing about a reduction in mobility? Although there’s a long history of worrying about a decline in mobility, such concerns have become unusually prominent of late. These concerns can be addressed by mining existing survey data on trends, developing a new national survey on mobility, and collaborating with the Internal Revenue Survey to craft a new tax-based platform for monitoring mobility (of course with strict confidentiality protections). A selection of relevant readings (and go here for a full list of relevant work):

The past, present, and future of big social classes

It’s long been assumed by sociologists that attitudes, behaviors, and life chances are fixed in large part by one’s social class. If you want to know who listens to jazz, who will vote Republican, or who is likely to sign up for a tour of duty in Iraq, the standard-issue sociologist will suggest that social class, more so than any other variable, has the most predictive power. But is this indeed the case? Are we moving into a new inequality regime in which class matters less and income, wealth, or occupation more? A selection of relevant readings (and go here for a full list of relevant work):

The future of gender inequality

The "gender revolution" is now a half-century old and yet the workplace is still extremely segregated and the decline in the gender pay gap appears to have run it’s course. Are the historic reductions in gender inequality stalling out because all the easy gains have been creamed off? Is the slowdown attributable to the essentialist view that women and men are fundamentally different in their tastes and proclivities? We address this question by examining the extent to which women workers continue to be segregated into essentialist ghettos. A selection of relevant readings (and go here for a full list of relevant work):

Winners and losers in the Great Recession

The current recession has been the deepest downturn since the Great Depression. We monitor how the pain of the recession is being distributed across population groups, how families are coping with the strain of unprecedented unemployment and economic duress, and whether the Great Recession is a game changer with respect to fundamental social and political attitudes. A selection of relevant readings:

Measuring poverty

The new Supplemental Poverty Measure is a milestone in U.S. poverty measurement, but there is still room for advances and a rare opportunity to implement some of them. The three most important revisions are (a) to develop a protocol for more frequent updating of poverty measures, (b) to build the capacity to measure poverty at the local level, and (c) to assess poverty in ways that reflect whether minimum standards of health care and child care are being met. A selection of relevant readings (and go here for a full list of relevant work):

New models and methods

The field of social inequality has long been driven by methodological advances and a special commitment to building models that capture the key concepts of interest. In the research described below, a series of new segregation models is introduced, a new approach to characterizing the underlying structure of the inequality space is described, and new models for analyzing social and spatial mobility are developed. A selection of relevant readings (and go here for a full list of relevant work):

Theories and mechanisms of inequality

Is a new "high modern" form of inequality emerging? Are inequality regimes gradually shedding their distinctive features and converging towards some common regime? Why do the Marxian and Weberian formulations of human history both read so fresh today? These and related questions are taken on in the reviews, synthetic articles, and theory pieces listed below (and go here for a full list of relevant work).

Classroom texts

The Westview Press inequality series offers three texts in the poverty and inequality field:

• An undergraduate reader: The Inequality Reader (2nd edition) is intended for undergraduate students requiring an introduction to the field as well as general readers who would profit from a compilation of accessible scholarship on poverty and inequality.

• A graduate reader: The volume Social Stratification (3rd edition) is designed for graduate students, scholars, and others seeking full exposure to advanced scholarship in the field.

• A compilation of the classics: For those interested in just the classic works, Inequality: Classic Readings in Race, Class, and Gender is a slimmer volume of essential readings.