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UC Berkeley


Inequality Studies

Field Description

The study of social inequality ranges from anthropological studies of hunter-gatherer societies to historical investigations of the “Great Divergence” among nation-states in the nineteenth century and the contemporary economics and social results of what scholars call patrimonial capitalism. However framed, the study of inequality is a truly interdisciplinary inquiry that includes empirical sociological and political measures of the dimensions and levels of inequality; interdisciplinary analysis of the varying bases of power in status, political and economic systems; the development of various statistical indices to measure inequality; the inheritance and fraught reproduction of inequalities; the cultural investigation of the sacerdotal and pseudo-scientific sanction of power and privilege; the investigation of the historical struggles for juridical equality; the philosophical differences between formal and substantive equality along with the political and theoretical justifications of equality and inequality; and the debate over taxation and other public policies in regards to inequality.

Students interested in this emergent field will find relevant, challenging and exciting courses in Anthropology, Demography, Development Studies, Economics, Environmental Economics and Policy, Ethnic Studies, History, Legal Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Public Health, Public Policy, and Sociology.

Library Resources is forthcoming; meanwhile, please contact Lynn Jones at

Recent ISF Senior Theses

  • Women and their Access to Justice: On the Intersectionality of Class, Race, and Gender in the Justice System in Brazil
  • A Bleak Future? The Dynamics of Opportunity and Inequality in West Africa
  • Manufacturing Inequality: The Dirty Race to the Bottom in China’s Special Economic Zones
  • Are Anti-Poverty Policies Working in South Korea? The Situation of the Working Poor, 1980-2010
  • “We Started at the Bottom, But Now We’re Here.” The Effects of Microfinance Programs on Long-Term Inequality and Poverty in Mexico
  • “All I Need is Land To Get Out of this Situation.” A Comparative Economic Analysis of Land Distribution Policies and their Effects on Inequality in China and Brazil
  • Has NAFTA Made Inequality Better or Worse in Mexico? An Empirical Analysis with a Historical Perspective
  • How Did We Get Here? The State of the Homeless in America, 1980-2005
  • The Paradox of Globalization: Race to the Bottom or Middle-Class Haven?
  • Capital Vs. Labor: The Impact of Globalization on Entertainment Unions in the United States, 1980-2000

Relevant UC Berkeley Courses

  • Ethnic Studies 173AC: Indigenous Peoples in Global Inequality
  • Public Policy C103: Wealth and Poverty
  • Education 182AC: The Politics of Educational Inequality
  • Development Studies C100: History of Development and Underdevelopment
  • Economics 154: Economics of Discrimination
  • Public Policy C164: Impact of Government Policies on Families and Children
  • Public Policy 190: Poverty and Inequality
  • Sociology 130AC: Social Inequalities: American Studies
  • Global Poverty and Practice 115: Global Poverty: Challenges and Hopes in the New Millennium
  • Environmental Economics and Policy C151: Economic Development
  • Interdisciplinary Studies 100F: Theorizing Modern Capitalism: Controversies and Interpretations
  • History 160: The International Economy of the 20th Century
  • Political Science 138E: The Varieties of Capitalism: Political-Economic Systems of the World
  • Sociology 127: Development and Globalization

Acemoglu, Daron. 2012. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. New York: Crown Publishers.

Alvarado, Facundo, Anthony B. Atkinson, Thomas Piketty, and Emmanuel Saez. 2013. “The Top 1 Percent in International and Historical Perspective.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 27(3):3–20.

Atkinson, A. B., and Thomas Piketty, eds. 2014. Top Incomes Over the Twentieth Century: A Contrast between European and English-Speaking Countries. New York: Oxford University Press.

Baland, Jean-Marie, Pranab Bardhan, and Samuel Bowles, eds. 2006. Inequality, Cooperation, and Environmental Sustainability. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Balibar, Étienne. 2014. Equaliberty: Political Essays. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Beteille, Andre. 1977. Inequality Among Men. London, England: Blackwell.

Birdsall, Nancy, and Carol L. Graham, eds. 1999. New Markets, New Opportunities? Economic and Social Mobility in a Changing World. Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution Press and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bourguignon, Francois, and Christian Morrison. 2002. “Inequality Among World Citizens: 1820-1992.” American Economic Review 92(4):727-44.

Cowell, Frank. 2011. Measuring Inequality. 3rd ed. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Crow, Ben, and Suresh K. Lodha. 2011. The Atlas of Global Inequalities. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Du Bois, W. E. B. 2007. Black Reconstruction in America. An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fischer, Claude S., Michael Hout, Martín Sánchez JankowskiSamuel R. Lucas, Ann Swidler, and Kim Voss. 1996. Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth. 1st edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Flannery, Kent, and Joyce Marcus. 2012. The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Frank, Robert. 2007. Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Graeber, David. 2012. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. New York: Melville House.

Grusky, David B. and Ravi Kanbur. 2006. Poverty and Inequality. Stanford, CA: Stanford University.

Grusky, David, and Szonja Szelenyi, eds. 2011. The Inequality Reader: Contemporary and Foundational Readings in Race, Class, and Gender. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

House, James S. 2002. “Understanding Social Factors and Inequalities in Health: 20th Century Progress and 21st Century Prospects.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 43(2):125-142.

Kogan, Irena, Clemens Noelke, and Michael Gebel, eds. 2011. Making the Transition: Education and Labor Market Entry in Central and Eastern Europe. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Krippner, Greta R. 2012. Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Landes, David S. 1999. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Lindert, Peter H., and Jeffrey G. Williamson. 2001. Does Globalization Make the World More Unequal?. National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved October 16, 2014 (

Lucas, Samuel R. 2008. Theorizing Discrimination in an Era of Contested Prejudice. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. [1848]1994. “The Communist Manifesto.” Pp. 157–86 in Karl Marx. Selected Writings, edited by Lawrence H. Simon. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.

Marx, Karl. 1994. “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts.” Pp. 54–97 in Karl Marx. Selected Writings, edited by Lawrence H. Simon. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.

Massey, Douglas S. 2008. Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Milanovic, Branko. 2011. The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality. New York: Basic Books.

Neckerman, Kathryn M. and Florencia Torche. 2007. “Inequality: Causes and Consequences”, Annual Review of Sociology 33: 335-357.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1989. On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Vintage Books.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1990. The Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ: Or How to Philosophize with a Hammer. Revised edition. Edited by Michael Tanner and translated by R.J. Hollingdale. London, England: Penguin Classics.

Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. 1994. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge.

Parthasarathi, Prasannan. 2011. Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Pichot, Andre. 2009. Pure Society: From Darwin to Hitler. London, England: Verso.

Piketty, Thomas. 2014. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Piketty, Thomas, and Emmanuel Saez. 2014. “Inequality in the Long-Run.” Science 344(6186):838–43.

Pogge, Thomas W. 2008. World Poverty and Human Rights. 2 edition. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Polity Press.

Rancière, Jacques. 1991. The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Rawls, John. 2005. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Ray, Raka, and Seemin Qayum. 2009. Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity, and Class in India. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1985. A Discourse on Inequality. Reprint edition. Edited by Maurice Cranston. London, England: Penguin Classics.

Rubin, Gayle S. 2011. Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Salverda, Wiemer, Brian Nolan, and Timothy M. Smeeding, eds. 2011. The Oxford Handbook of Economic Inequality. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sayer, Liana C. 2005. “Gender, Time and Inequality: Trends in Women’s and Men’s Paid Work, Unpaid Work, and Free Time.” Social Forces (84):285–303.

Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Sidney Verba, and Henry E. Brady. 2013. The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Scott, Joan Wallach. 1999. Gender and the Politics of History. Revised edition. New York: Columbia University Press.

Sen, Amartya. 1995. Inequality Reexamined. New York: Harvard University Press.

Simmel, Georg. 1971 [1908]. “The Poor.” Pp. 150-178 in On Individuality and Social Forms. Edited by Donald Levine. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Stepan, Alfred, and Juan J. Linz. 2011. “Comparative Perspectives on Inequality and the Quality of Democracy in the United States.” Perspectives on Politics 9(4):841–56.

Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2013. The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Tilly, Charles. 1999. Durable Inequality. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

De Tocqueville, Alexis. 2003. Democracy in America. Edited by Isaac Kramnick and translated by Gerald Bevan. London, England: Penguin Classics.

Weber, Max. 2009. “Class, Status, Party.” Pp. 180–95 in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, edited by H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. London, England: Routledge.

Western, Bruce. 2007. Punishment and Inequality in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Wilkinson, Richard, and Kate Pickett. 2011. The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. New York: Bloomsbury Press.

Wilson, William Julius. 1990. The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Wright, Erik Olin. 1980. “Varieties of Marxist Conceptions of Class Structure.” Politics and Society (9):323–70.

Veblen, Thorstein. 2009. The Theory of the Leisure Class. Edited by Martha Banta. New York: Oxford University Press.