42614 - Economics of Inequality

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

No poverty Reduced inequalities Climate Action

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

The course offers an introduction to the economic analysis of inequality and of the main theories of distributive justice. It aims to provide the conceptual tools needed to allow students to understand the main theoretical issues and to take part, with sufficient precision and autonomy, to the contemporary political and economic debate.

Course contents

The course offers an introduction to the economic analysis of inequality, both at national and global level, and to the main theories of distributive justice.

+ Introduction: inequality in an historical and comparative perspective.

+ Patrimonial capitalism, meritocracy and inequality in advanced countries

+ Equality of opportunity: definition and measurement.

+ Global inequality

+ Inequality, poverty and growth

+ Land access, poverty and inequality; land reforms; land grabbing.

+ Water access, poverty and inequality; transboundary water management.

+ Inequality and global warming

+ Distributive justice and social choice: Arrow's impossibility theorem; Utilitarianism; Rawls; Nozick;


The detailed syllabus will be available at the course start.


1. Introduction: concepts, measures, trends.

Power point presentation;

2. Patrimonial capitalism, meritocracy and inequality in advanced countries

Power point presentation;

Piketty T., Capital in XXI century, Belknap Press 2014; chapters 1, 5, 7, 8;

3. Theories of distributive justice

Power point presentation;

4. Inequality of opportunity

Power point presentation;

5. Global inequality

Power point presentation;

Milanovic B., Worlds Apart. Measuring International and Global Inequality, Princeton U.P. 2007; chapters 4, 8, 9, 11;

6. Inequality, poverty and growth

Power point presentation;

Deininger K., Squire L., (1998), New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth, Journal of Development Economics, vol. 57, 259-287.

7. Inequality, poverty and land access

Power point presentation;

Lipton M., (2009), Land Reform in Developing Countries, Routledge, 2009, chapter 2;

Vollrath D., (2007), Land distribution and international agricultural productivity, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, vol. 89, 202-216;

Deininger K., (2011), Challenges posed by the new wave of farmland investment, Journal of Paesant Studies, vol. 38, 217- 247;

De Schutter O., (2011), How not to think of land-grabbing: three critiques of large-scale investment in farmland, Journal of Paesant Studies, vol. 38, 249-279;

8. Inequality, poverty and access to water

Power point presentation;

Brown C., e Lall U., (2006), Water and economic development: the role of variability and a framework for resilience, Natural Resources Forum, vol. 30, 306-317;

Bhattarai M., Sakthivadiel R., e Hussain I., (2002), Irrigation impacts on income inequality and poverty alleviation: policy issues and options for improved management of irrigation systems, Working Paper 39. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute;

Hussain I., (2007), Poverty-reducing impacts of irrigation: evidence and lessons, Irrigation and Drainage, vol. 56, 147- 164;

Ambec S., e Ehlers L., (2007), Cooperation and equity in river sharing problem, Working paper 6, Laboratoire d'Economie Appliquée de Grenoble.

9. Inequality and global warming

Power point presentation;

Grunewald N., et al. (2011), Income inequality and carbon emissions, Working paper 92. Georg-August Universitat Gottingen;

Teng F. et al. (2011), How to measure carbon equity: carbon Gini index based on historical cumulative emission per capita, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, Nota di lavoro 31.

Piketty T. and Chancel (2013), Carbon and inequality. From Kyoto to Paris: trends in the global inequality of carbon emissions and prospects for an equitable adaptation fund, Paris School of Economics.

Teaching methods

Traditional teaching; however, students' active participation will be encouraged.

Assessment methods

The assessment involves two parts: a) a class simulation on a specific topic; b) a written report on the simulation. The weight of the class simulation is 0.4; the weight of the report is 0,6.

For the simulation, students are divided in small groups; each group faces a specific aspect of the simulation topic. The day of the simulation, each group's results are presented and critically discussed by all participants. The simulation grade is the same for all students of the same group.  

Each student must then write a "technical covering report" of no more than 5 pages in which a synthetic assessment of the simulation general topic is presented.

This assessment method is conditioned on the number of students; if the simulation is not viable, the assessment method is replaced by a paper on an assigned topic.

In the last years, the topics of the simulations were: a) water access and poverty in the Niger river basin; b) poverty and inequality in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; c) poverty and inequality in Latin America; d) inequality and climate change.

Students are not allowed to reject the simulation grade.  However they're allowed to reject (but only once) the final grade; in this case, students must re-write the technical covering report. 

Teaching tools


Office hours

See the website of Giorgio Giovanni Negroni