Interdisciplinary Seminar in Politics and Economics (Spring 2021, 2022)


Income inequality has risen sharply in most advanced democracies. While there are a host of causes, including globalization, technology, education, and fiscal policy, this seminar asks when and why people are willing to accept unequal societies. Current research shows that fairness considerations play a central role. People are willing to accept income differences that are based on effort and choice, but less so if inequalities are the outcome of luck and circumstances. Yet, even luck and circumstances can create entitlements. People also appear to support the idea that inequality is acceptable if it is balanced by social mobility. However, social mobility had been virtually stagnant in many countries for years, and educational success strongly relates to social class and family background. This seminar introduces students to influential research on the politics of inequality, distributive justice, and fairness. Central questions we ask are how entitlements are created, how people differ in their fairness ideals, how equality of opportunity and intergenerational mobility relate to fairness, how social policy and institutions respond to conceptualizations of fairness, and how fairness relates to questions of gender and identity. The seminar puts a focus on quantitative and experimental studies on these topics and unites research from economics and political science.

Verena Fetscher
Postdoctoral Researcher

My research interests include redistribution preferences, fairness concerns, and experimental methods