Distributive Justice

Course content

The course is an introduction to economic approaches to justice and fairness from both theoretical and empirical perspectives.


The course starts with an introduction to welfare economics, the part of economics that addresses ethical issues.  This introduction will be framed as a discussion of the possibility for a society to aggregate different views on what is good. Arrow’s impossibility theorem states that this is infeasible, but subsequent approaches have explored how this result may be circumvented. The course considers two such approaches. The most common way to avoid the impossibility result is to assume that well-beings of agents can be both measured and interpersonally compared. An alternative is to restrict the attention to one-dimensional issues, such as individual income.


The course contains an introduction to empirical measurement of social welfare and inequality. This introduction will be framed around how to rank income distributions and Lorenz curves. The course considers what properties measures of inequality should satisfy, how to theoretically derive measures of equal versus unequal distributions, and how to measure inequality in practice. The course will also cover a number of empirical questions related to inequality. 


The course contains an introduction to intergenerational justice. This introduction will be framed around conflicts between the interests of the present and the interests of future generations. Related to this conflict is the question of how to treat future generations. The course identifies and illustrates ways to resolve intergenerational conflicts by normative analysis based on intertemporal social choice. It then considers whether normative analysis based on intertemporal social choice is relevant for actual decision-making. The course will also cover applications to the climate and population problems.

Learning outcome

After completing the course the student is expected to be able to:



  • Account for the challenge of measuring social welfare.
  • Reflect on the main approaches to distributional justice.
  • Compare different inequality indices and account for their strengths and weaknesses.



  • Choose and assess the most appropriate approach to measuring social welfare for each economic problem.
  • Perform a sensible welfare analysis for understanding the effects of economic policies.
  • Undertake an analysis of inequality.



  • Read and evaluate project reports and journal articles that make use of the concepts and methods that are introduced in the course.
  • Make use of the course content in your own academic work, for example in analyses that are part of the master’s thesis.

The teaching will consist of a combination of lectures presenting the relevant theories and empirics and exercise classes involving applications and extensions of the theories and empirics presented in the lectures.

In case of a pandemic like Corona the teaching in this course may be changed to be taught either fully or partly online. For further information, see the course room on Absalon.

The syllabus consists of a selection of scientific papers by leading authors in the field. A detailed list of the syllabus will be posted in Absalon at the beginning of the course.

There is no recommended academic qualifications other than the requirements to the Master program in Economics.

The course assumes that the students have knowledge of
- Mathematics corresponding to the courses “Matematik A” and “Matematik B”: Integration (i.e. by parts), derivation and (basic) properties of functions.
- Statistics corresponding to the course “Sandsynlighedsteori”: Probability distributions and properties.
- Econometrics corresponding to the course “Econometrics I”: Basic knowledge of statistical inference.

2 hours lectures one to two times a week from week 6 to 20 (except holidays).
Some of the lecteres will be used for exercise classes.

The overall schema can be seen at KUnet:
MSc in Economics => "courses and teaching" => "Planning and overview" => "Your timetable"
KA i Økonomi => "Kurser og undervisning" => "Planlægning og overblik" => "Dit skema"

Timetable and venue:
To see the time and location of lectures please press the link under "Timetable"/​"Se skema" at the right side of this page (F means Spring).

You can find the similar information in English at
-Select Department: “2200-Økonomisk Institut” (and wait for respond)
-Select Module:: “2200-F21; [Name of course]”
-Select Report Type: “List – Weekdays”
-Select Period: “Forår/Spring – Week 5-30”
Press: “ View Timetable”

Please be aware:
- That it is the students´s own responsibility to continuously update themselves about their studies, their teaching, their schedule, their exams etc. through the study pages, the course description, the Digital Exam portal, Absalon, KUnet, myUCPH app, the curriculum etc.



The students receive oral collective feedback during the lectures and exercises.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 3 hours under invigilation
in the exam venues of the university.
The exam assignment is given in English and must be answered in English.

In the event that this summer's exams have to be conducted as online exams due to COVID-19, the exam form will be a 3 H take-home exam with aids. The reexam will be the same as the rescheduled ordinary exam, but possibly online orally if only few students register.
Without aids

for the written assignment.


In case of an oral reexam, please go to the section "Reexam" for further information about allowed aids.


Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
for the written exam. The exam may be chosen for external censorship by random check.
Criteria for exam assessment

Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the course.


To receive the top grade, the student must with no or only a few minor weaknesses be able to demonstrate an excellent performance displaying a high level of command of all aspects of the relevant material and can make use of the knowledge, skills and competencies listed in the learning outcomes.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 161
  • Exam
  • 3
  • English
  • 206