Soc 212: Social Stratification

University of California-San Diego
Spring 2021-22
Tuesdays 9:00-11:50, SSB 101

Lane Kenworthy
Office hours: Zoom link, M 12:00-1:00 and by appointment
Tel: 858-860-6124

This course will examine how income and wealth inequality affect well-being. We also will explore some policies and institutions that might enable a high-inequality society to be a not-too-bad one.


Week 1
March 29
Introduction: How much inequality? Where? Since when? Does it have harmful effects?

  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Income Distribution.” The Good Society.
  • Gornick, Janet C. and Timothy M. Smeeding. 2018. “Redistributional Policy in Rich Countries: Institutions and Impacts in Nonelderly Households.” Annual Review of Sociology 44, 441-468.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Wealth Distribution.” The Good Society.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Is Income Inequality Harmful?” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2004. Egalitarian Capitalism. Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2008. Jobs with Equality. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett. 2009. The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. Bloomsbury Press.
  • Optional: Stiglitz, Joseph. 2012. The Price of Inequality. W.W. Norton.
  • Optional: Reich, Robert and Jacob Kornbluth. 2013. Inequality for All.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2013. “Lifting Living Standards in an Open Economy: The Danger of Front-Loading Income Inequality.” In Progressive Politics after the Crash, edited by Olaf Cramme, Patrick Diamond, Roger Liddle, and Michael McTernan, I.B. Tauris, 157-169.
  • Optional: Piketty, Thomas. 2014. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Harvard University Press.
  • Optional: OECD. 2017. “Understanding the Socio-Economic Divide in Europe.”
  • Optional: Scanlon, T.M. 2018. Why Does Inequality Matter? Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Piketty, Thomas. 2020. Capital and Ideology. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Harvard University Press. Especially chapters 11, 17.
  • Optional: Malleson, Tom. Against Inequality. Book draft.

Week 2
April 5
Economic growth, middle-class living standards, poverty

  • OECD. 2015. “The Impact of Income Inequality on Economic Growth.” Chapter 2 in In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All. OECD Publishing.
  • Chetty, Raj, David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert Manduca, and Jimmy Narang. 2017. “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940.” Science 356, 398-406.
  • Fligstein, Neil, Orestes P. Hastings, and Adam Goldstein. 2017. “Keeping up with the Joneses: How Households Fared in the Era of High Income Inequality and the Housing Price Bubble, 1999-2007.” Socius 3, 1-15.
  • Thewissen, Stefan, Lane Kenworthy, Brian Nolan, Max Roser, and Timothy Smeeding. 2018. “Rising Inequality and Living Standards in OECD Countries: How Does the Middle Fare?” Journal of Income Distribution 26(2), 1-23.
  • Cherlin, Andrew J., David C. Ribar, and Suzumi Yasutake. 2016. “Nonmarital First Births, Marriage, and Income Inequality.” American Sociological Review 81, 749-770.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2010. “Rising Inequality, Public Policy, and America’s Poor.” Challenge 53(6), 93-109.
  • Optional: Frank, Robert H. 2007. Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class. University of California Press.
  • Optional: Bertrand, Marianne and Adair Morse. 2016. “Trickle-Down Consumption.” Review of Economics and Statistics 98, 863-879.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2018. “America’s Great Decoupling.” In Inequality and Inclusive Growth in Rich Countries, edited by Brian Nolan, Oxford University Press, 333-362.
  • Optional: OECD. 2019. Under Pressure: The Squeezed Middle Class. OECD Publishing.

Week 3
April 12
Education, opportunity, mobility

  • Schneider, Daniel, Orestes P. Hastings, and Joe LaBriola. 2018. “Income Inequality and Class Divides in Parental Investments.” American Sociological Review 83, 475-507.
  • Jerrim, John and Lindsey Macmillan. 2015. “Income Inequality, Intergenerational Mobility, and the Great Gatsby Curve: Is Education the Key?” Social Forces 94, 505-533.
  • Jacobs, Elisabeth and Liz Hipple. 2018. “Are Today’s Inequalities Limiting Tomorrow’s Opportunities?” Washington Center on Equitable Growth.
  • DiPrete, Thomas A. 2020. “The Impact of Inequality on Intergenerational Mobility.” Annual Review of Sociology 46, 379-398.
  • Optional: OECD. 2018. A Broken Social Elevator? How to Promote Social Mobility. OECD Publishing.
  • Optional: Durlauf, Steven N., Andros Kourtellos, and Chih Ming Tan. 2021. “The Great Gatsby Curve.” Working Paper 43, Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Equality of Opportunity.” The Good Society.

Week 4
April 19

  • Pickett, Kate E. and Richard G. Wilkinson. 2015. “Income Inequality and Health: A Causal Review.” Social Science and Medicine 128, 316-326.
  • Truesdale, Beth C. and Christopher Jencks. 2016. “The Health Effects of Income Inequality: Averages and Disparities.” Annual Review of Sociology 37, 413-430.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Longevity.” The Good Society.

Week 5
April 26
Community, civic engagement, trust

  • Schroeder, Joris Melchior and Michaela Neumayr. 2021. “How Socio-Economic Inequality Affects Individuals’ Civic Engagement: A Systematic Literature Review of Empirical Findings and Theoretical Explanations.” Socio-Economic Review,
  • Hastings, Orestes P. 2018. “Less Equal, Less Trusting? Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Effects of Income Inequality on Trust in U.S. States, 1973–2012.” Social Science Research 74, 77-95.
  • Putnam, Robert D. with Shaylynn Romney Garrett. 2020. The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. Simon and Schuster.
  • Optional: Lancee, Bram and Herman G. Van de Werfhorst. 2012. “Income Inequality and Participation: A Comparison of 24 European Countries.” Social Science Research 41, 1166-1178.
  • Optional: Fairbrother, Malcolm and Isaac W. Martin. 2013. “Does Inequality Erode Social trust? Results from Multilevel Models of US States and Counties.” Social Science Research.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Civic Engagement.” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Trust.” The Good Society.

Empirical analysis proposal #1 due week 6: Tuesday, May 3

Week 6
May 3

  • Daly, Martin. 2016. Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide. Routledge.
  • Santos, Mateus Renno, Alexander Testa, and Douglas B. Weiss. 2018. “Where Poverty Matters: Examining the Cross-National Relationship between Economic Deprivation and Homicide.” British Journal of Criminology 58, 372-393.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Safety.” The Good Society.

Week 7
May 10

  • Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett. 2019. The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity, and Improve Everyone’s Well-Being. Penguin.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Mental Health.” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Happiness.” The Good Society.

Week 8
May 17

  • Page, Benjamin and Martin Gilens. 2017. Democracy in America? What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It. University of Chicago Press.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2022. “Economic Inequality and Plutocracy.” Contemporary Sociology 51, 6-15.
  • Optional: Scheve, Kenneth and David Stasavage. “Wealth Inequality and Democracy.” 2017. Annual Review of Political Science 20, 451-68.

Empirical analysis proposal #2 due week 9: Tuesday, May 24

Week 9
May 24
A good society with high(ish) income and wealth inequality?

  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2022. Would Democratic Socialism Be Better? Oxford University Press. Pp. 2-10, 127-130.
  • Partanen, Anu and Trevor Corson. 2019. “Finland Is a Capitalist Paradise.” New York Times, December 7.
  • Gidick, Kinsey. 2022. “Is Finland Really the Happiest Country in the World? Finns Weigh In.” Washington Post, March 31.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2022. “Public Goods and Services Make Lives Better and Less Unequal.” In Social Stratification, 5th edition, edited by David Grusky, Nima Dahir, and Claire Daviss, Routledge.
  • Nussbaum, Martha C. 2011. “The Central Capabilities.” Chapter 2 in Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Harvard University Press.
  • Optional: Sen, Amartya. 1999. Development as Freedom. Oxford University Press. Especially pp. 3-25.
  • Optional: Giddens, Anthony. 1998. The Third Way. Polity. Especially pp. vii-x, 1-11, 64-128.
  • Optional: Reich, Robert. 1999. “We Are All Third-Wayers Now.” The American Prospect, March-April.
  • Optional: Christoffersen, Henrik, Michelle Beyeler, Reiner Eichenberger, Peter Nannestad, and Martin Paldam. 2014. The Good Society: A Comparative Study of Denmark and Switzerland. Springer.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2020. Social Democratic Capitalism. Oxford University Press. Especially chapters 1-3, 5, 7.
  • Optional: Koppelman, Andrew. 2022. “Rawls and the Market Economy.” National Affairs, Spring.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Taxes.” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Van Parijs, Philippe and Yannick Vanderborght. 2017. Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free and Sane Economy. Harvard University Press.

Week 10
May 31
A good society with high(ish) income and wealth inequality?

Note: I may change the readings for this week.

  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2022. “An End to Poverty Everywhere.” Chapter 3 in Would Democratic Socialism Be Better? Oxford University Press.
  • Goodman, Peter S. 2019. “The Nordic Model May Be the Best Cushion Against Capitalism. Can It Survive Immigration?” New York Times, July 11.
  • Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana and Phillip Connor. 2019. “Around the World, More Say Immigrants Are a Strength Than a Burden.” Pew Research Center.
  • Inglehart, Ronald and Pippa Norris. 2017. “Trump and the Populist Authoritarian Parties: The Silent Revolution in Reverse.” Perspectives on Politics 15, 443-454.
  • Optional: Jetten, Jolanda, Frank Mols, and Tom Postmes. 2015. “Relative Deprivation and Relative Wealth Enhances Anti-Immigrant Sentiments: The V-Curve Reexamined.” PLoS One 10, 1-24.
  • Optional: Traub, James. 2016. “The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth.” Foreign Policy.
  • Optional: Polakow-Suransky, Sasha. 2017. Go Back To Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy. Bold Type Books.
  • Optional: Gidron, Noam and Peter A. Hall. 2019. “Populism as a Problem of Social Integration.” Comparative Political Studies 53.
  • Optional: Caplan, Bryan and Zach Weinersmith. 2019. Open Borders. First Second.
  • Optional: Magni, Gabriele. 2020. “Economic Inequality, Immigrants, and Selective Solidarity: From Perceived Lack of Opportunity to In-Group Favoritism.” British Journal of Political Science 51, 1357-1380.
  • Optional: Macdonald, David. 2021. “Immigration Attitudes and White Americans’ Responsiveness to Rising Income Inequality.” American Politics Research 49(2), 132-142.

Empirical analysis proposal #3 due week 11: Tuesday, June 7


Readings. The required readings are available via the course Canvas page. They should be done before class (except week 1).

Class participation. I expect you to participate actively in class each week. There are lots of ways to do this: ask questions, comment, critique, explain, think out loud.

Presentation. Each student will make one in-class presentation during the quarter, on the readings for a given week. Use the standard conference presentation as your model: about 20 minutes, with slides. Don’t merely summarize the readings. Tell us how they could have done better.

Three empirical analysis proposals. Identify a research question in one or more of the readings and suggest an empirical analysis that might shed light on the question. (You may propose more than one analysis if you wish, but don’t spread yourself too thin.) Explain how your proposal would help to answer the question. Be specific and detailed about data and methods. Avoid lengthy introductions and meandering summaries of the reading(s). You will write three of these proposals. The due dates are listed above. Word maximum: 1,500. If you need more words, put them in an appendix and/or footnotes. Formatting: single-space with 2-inch side margins. Upload your proposals to the Canvas course page.

Grading. Class participation 30%, presentation 30%, empirical analysis proposals 40%.