Seminar: Global Inequality

Course content

The seminar is based on my previous course at UC Berkeley:

Course description:

This seminar focuses on the analysis of economic inequalities and the interplay between inequality and economic growth. It deals with three sets of core questions: 1) How does inequality evolve over the path of development? 2) What are the theories that can explain the level of economic inequalities and its dynamic? 3) How do policies affect inequalities, and what types of policies can foster equitable growth? The seminar addresses these issues from a global and historical perspective.

Examples of topics to be addressed in seminar papers:

  1. Inequality between labor and capital
  2. Trends in inequality between countries
  3. Trends in inequality within countries
  4. Labor income inequality: the role of market forces
  5. Labor income inequality: the role of institutions
  6. Gender inequality in the labor market
  7. Racial economic disparities
  8. Models of the wealth distribution
  9. Inherited versus self-made wealth
  10. Tax Evasion and inequality
  11. Optimal labor income taxation
  12. Optimal capital taxation
  13. Taxation in a globalized world
  14. Ending global poverty

MSc programme in Economics

The seminar is primarily for students at the MSc of Economics.

Learning outcome

After completing the seminar the student is expected to be able to fulfill the learning outcome specified in the Master curriculum and to be able to:


  • Account for mechanisms driving global inequality
  • Define different measures of inequality
  • Discuss what policies can be used to curb inequality



  • Analyze complex economic systems and their derived impact on inequality
  • Evaluate the validity of common arguments heard in the debate on global inequality
  • Present stringent empirical/theoretical work



  • Plan a research project
  • Implement a research design
  • Initiate collaborations with peers

At the seminar the student is trained independently to
- identify and clarify a problem,
- seek and select relevant literatur,
- write a academic paper,
- present and discuss own paper with the other students at the seminar.

Mandatory activities in the seminar:
- Kick-off meeting
- Finding literatur and defining the project
- Writing process of the seminar paper
- Presentation of own project and paper
- Giving constructive feedback to another student´s paper
- Actively participating in discussions at the presentations and other meetings.

The aim of the presentations is, that you use the presentation as an opportunity to practice oral skills and to receive feedback at the paper. The presentations are not a part of the exam and will not be assessed.

The seminar project paper must be uploaded in Absalon before the presentations, as the opponents and the other seminar participants have to read and comment on the paper. It is important that you upload a paper that is so finalized as possible due to the fact that the value of feedback and comments at the presentation is strongly associated with the skill level of the seminar paper.
The teacher defines what materials may be used for the presentations.

After the presentations, you can with a few corrections improve the seminar paper by including the feedback and comments emerged during the presentations. It is NOT intended that you rewrite or begin the writing of the seminar paper after the presentation has taken place.

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

Required readings:
• Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman (2018), “Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States”, Quarterly Journal of Economics.
• World Inequality Report 2018, part II: “Trends in Global Income Inequality”
• Lucy Page and Rohini Pande (2015), “Ending Global Poverty: Why Money Isn’t Enough”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 32: 173-200.
• The ambitious 2018 OECD report “The Broken Social Elevator”. It is not required that you read this report in its entirety and you may simply want to see the webinar presentation of the report instead of reading it here.

Online resources:
Several interactive tools have been put available by leading researchers in inequality. You may want to check these out:
• Design your own tax policy and examine the distributional consequences here:
• Explore the opportunity atlas to see what the level of social mobility is in your neighbourhood here:
• Find out how much you country lose (or win) to tax havens here:
• Explore life across incomes, from the extremely poor to the wealthy, on dollar street:
• Check out where in the income distribution you are:
• Check out “Our World in Data” to tind out just about anything about the state of global development e.g. how the fight on extreme poverty is going:

Optional readings:
In addition to the required readings above, there are three books that are recommended optional readings:
• Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman’s “Triumph of Injustice” (2019, W.W. Norton & Co.
• Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century (2014, Harvard University Press).
• Anthony Atkinson’s Inequality: What Can be Done? (2015, Harvard University Press).

There are no recommended academic qualifications other than the requirements to the study programme.

BSc in Economics or similar

Schedule of the seminar:

Spring 2021:

• Kick-off meeting (day, time from and to): Feb 8 (10-12)
• Extra days of introducing teaching: March 15 (10-16)
• Workshops/ Presentations meetings (1-3 days): May 1-May 2 (10-16)

General information:

It is strongly recommended that you think about and search for a topic before the semester begins, as there is only a few weeks from the kick-off meeting to the submission of the project description/agreement paper.

There is no weekly teaching/lecturing and the student cannot expect guidance from the teacher. If the teacher gives a few introduction lectures or gives the opportunity for guidance, this as well as other expectations are clarified at the kickoff meeting.

All information regarding the seminar is communicated through Absalon including venue. So it is very important that you by yourself logon to Absalon and read the information already when you are registered at the seminar.

  • Each student receives individually oral feedback on the paper and at the presentation from peers and teacher.
  • The teacher gives the students collective oral feedback and individual guidance.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
A seminar paper in English that meets the formal requirements for written papers stated in the curriculum of the Master programme and at KUNet for seminars.
All aids allowed

for the seminar paper.

The teacher defines the aids that must be used for the presentations.


Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the seminar and can make use of the knowledge, skills and competencies listed in the learning outcomes in the Curriculum of the Master programme.


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.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Project work
  • 186
  • Seminar
  • 20
  • English
  • 206