Some readings on income inequality



As we start, we’ll be talking about the distribution of income in Canada and around the world. In class, we’ll be talking about the conditions that give rise to a distribution of income within an economy. Much of this discussion will be geared towards furthering our understanding the cause, role and consequences of income inequality.

Towards this end, here are some readings to start considering:

  1. Overview of income inequality in Canada
  2. Data on incomes in Canada
  3. Growing inequality in Canada
  4. Discussion on income inequality in Canada
  5. Joseph Stiglitz on degrees of income inequality
  6. Some graphics on U.S. income inequality

When we think of income inequality, we are often engaging in discussions regarding poverty and public policies targeting the alleviation of poverty. Here are some readings on poverty in Canada:

  1. Low incomes lines for 2011-2012
  2. Low income among children
  3. Income dynamics of individuals with low incomes

Work on international comparisons of inequality:

  1. Is the world becoming more unequal
  2. Global income inequality (World Bank)
  3. International differences in low paid work
  4. Cross-national comparisons of inequality

Some readings on the consequences of inequality:

  1. Health consequences
  2. Socioeconomic effects
  3. Efficiency and equality
  4. Inequality and violent crime
  5. Respect and inequality
  6. The Human Development Index (HDI)

What I’m reading on the topic of social problems

Currently, as I’m teaching The Economics of Social Problems, I find myself reading (and re-reading) a few books on the topic. Two of these are novels (i.e., not really appropriate sources for term papers in Econ 349); one is a memoir.

I just finished reading Warren Miller’s The Cool World (1959), a novel about gangs in New York. The book was made into a movie that you can watch here. (Soundtrack by Dizzy Gillespie.)

I’m also reading Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. It’s an interesting look at life inside a federal prison and is striking in documenting how many people are in prison for the (what seem to me like) minor drug offenses.  As we’ll discuss in class, there are various means by which one can engage in deterrence and this book makes the case for re-thinking the war on drugs and the use of mandatory minimum sentences.

Finally, I’m re-reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. This is a great book by a great writer, painting a haunting picture of race relations, poverty, and social exclusion in the United States. It’s listed as one of the top 100 novels of the 20th century.

Economics 349: the Twitter assignment

We’ll be using Twitter in Econ 349 to develop your understanding of the course material and its application in analyzing various social problems. To give credit where credit is due, the ideas for this assignment come from my discussion with and materials prepared by Michael Ullyot.

Getting started

  1. Get a Twitter account if you don’t already have one. Your account must use your real name (set in Twitter’s profile settings) or you can’t be graded on the assignments. If you already have another Twitter account, you can create a new account for this course.
  2. Log in.
  3. Search the #econ349 hashtag and save this search. Then from your Home page, your Searches tab will list this as a saved search; click on it to see what others using that hashtag have been saying.
  4. Optional: Start following me at roboxoby (search “rob oxoby”). You don’t need to follow me as you can always search the #econ373 hashtag for my posts about the class.

The assignment:

  1. As you read the course readings and complete the assignments make a list of questions or situations  you encounter that provide an illustrative example the topics under discussion. Don’t tweet anything yet!! (Tweeting while reading is like texting while driving: it distracts you from what you should be focusing on.)
  2. Your goal should be to develop a deeper understanding of the various methods and topics. For example, you may have questions like “What is the right way to measure urban poverty?” or “How does utility regulation affect income inequality or homelessness?” Start with simple questions and move toward more complex, refined questions. Think of questions that provoke more questions. These should be questions that can be used in class to develop our discussions.
  3. Tweet your best question(s) by the end of the weekend (Sunday at midnight) each week. These dates are in the course calendar. That is, Tweets are “due” by midnight on January 19th and 26th, February 2nd, 9th, and 23rd (nothing due reading week), March 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th, and April 6th.
  4. Always include the #econ349 hashtag. If you want to add other tags like #poverty, #crime, or whatever go ahead.
  5. Remember that everything you tweet is public, and archived forever. If you would prefer your tweets to be private (i.e., invisible except to your followers), just change your account settings to “Tweet Privately.” If you do this, you must also tell me so that I can follow you and see your tweets.

Grading: Your eleven required tweets will be graded and are part of the 20% allocated to assignments. For full credit, you will tweet a minimum of eleven times on or before the scheduled days. Here are some details:

  • Quality matters more than quantity: Each of your tweets should pose thoughtful, critical, detailed questions about the material we are reading that week.
  • Even if your questions are initially basic, we are grading the growth in your expert thinking over time.
  • This is a self-reporting assignment. To get full credit, you must submit a print-out of your course-related tweets at the end of the course (due April 10th). Use to generate a list. Search “Someone’s Timeline”; under “Who?” enter your username; under “What” enter #econ349; and click “Find It.”
  • Things that will lower your grade in this assignment include showing a lack of interest in its goals, refusing/forgetting to participate on time, or tweeting things that are dishonest or disrespectful.
  • If you miss a required tweet, there is no make-up exercise. But you can help your grade in a few ways, listed in the next section.

More options

  • I encourage you to regularly tweet regarding others’ questions on the course material. Always include the #econ349 hashtag and always be respectful of your colleagues and classmates.
  • You can also start new discussions, raise new questions, and post links to interesting news articles or videos.
  • You can also attach a photo of signs, situations or events that exemplify a given topic. Be creative, but don’t send any morally compromising photos.
  • If you prefer to use a dedicated app, consider using Seesmic or Tweetdeck. They are available for all platforms (mobile, desktop). These apps make it easy to create multiple columns and track search criteria.