The Politics of Inequality

Course content

Since the 1980s economic inequality has risen dramatically in most advanced democracies. In Denmark, for example, the richest 1% of adults received almost twice as much of total national income in 2020 compared to 1980 (12.9% vs. 6.8%). In the United States, the pattern is even more pronounced: here the top 1% today receives more of total income than the bottom 50%. What is driving these dramatic changes in economic inequality? And how does rising economic inequality affect democracy, politics, and political preferences?


In this course, we will investigate the (economic and political) causes and consequences of rising economic inequality. In doing so, we will read and discuss both classic and recent work that seeks to provide answers to the questions raised above. Specifically, we will discuss i) how the post-1980 era is different from the one that came before, ii) how economic inequality affects the redistribution of income from the rich to the poor, iii) how it transforms preferences for redistribution and taxation, iv) whether rising inequality is a democratic problem, iv) and whether it increases political inequality and the distribution of political power. 


MSc in Political Science

MSc in Social Science

MSc in Security Risk Management

Bachelor in Political Science



In the autumn 2022 the course is also offered to students at the


- Master Programme in Global Development

- Master Programme in Social Data Science

- Bachelor and Master Programmes in Anthropology

- Bachelor and Master Programmes in Psychology

- Master Programme in Sociology

- Bachelor and Master Programmes in Economics


Enrolled students register the course through the Selfservice. Please contact the study administration at each programme for questions regarding registration.

Learning outcome


Upon completion of the course, the students will 1) have gained a basic understanding of the dynamics between democracy and economic inequality, 2) be able to discuss and critically analyze empirical studies of the topic, 3) have gained the knowledge to participate in societal debates about economic inequality.



The course will strengthen the student’s analytical skills and their ability to formulate convincing and coherent arguments.



  • Describe and discuss the causes and consequences of economic inequality
  • Make use of and evaluate different theories on the topic
  • Develop and test own research questions

The course will be highly discussion based mixed with the occasional short lecture and group work.

During the course, we will read foundational work on democracy, economic inequality, redistribution, and political representation. In addition to the classic work, we will read the best recent work on these topics.


Total number of pages: 1000-1200

Continuous feedback during the course
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Free written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester


Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of Psychology
  • Social Data Science
  • Department of Sociology
  • Department of Economics
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Mads Andreas Elkjær   (4-72666a71456e6b7833707a336970)
Saved on the 28-04-2022

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Courseinformation of students