Dimensions of Inequality: Social Science and Statistics

Winter 2019 and Spring 2019 quarters

Taught by

physics, education

Concern over the rise of economic inequality has grown over the last several decades as the gap between upper-income Americans and everyone else has grown wider. Recent elections have illustrated dramatically how perceptions of unfairness can fuel American politics. This program seeks to look at the underlying trends in inequality that have fed these concerns and perceptions. Our approach is interdisciplinary, combining the lenses of economics, sociology, and political science with a strong focus on quantitative data and statistical analyses. We will see that constructing a narrative based on data is not easy and contains many complexities that resist easy solutions.

In winter quarter we will review recent work on economic inequality by leading economists while also exploring sociological research on other dimensions of inequality such as race, gender, immigration status, geography, education, culture, and family that interact with the economic dimensions and with each other. We will begin to think about how the trend of increasing inequality can be reversed. Students will practice statistical reasoning and learn to use spreadsheet software to collect and display data.

In spring quarter our focus will move toward policy proposals and the political process. We will explore specific options for reducing inequalities such as changes to taxes and budgets and laws prohibiting discrimination, as well as lawsuits and activist campaigns aimed at changing values. In addition to the main readings and discussion, students will have options for various levels of project work focused on research in the areas of their choice (economics, political science, sociology, and statistics). Students will develop proposals for this work during winter quarter, and different levels of credit are available in spring to accommodate projects of different intensity.

Students who successfully complete the full two-quarter program will complete studies and earn credits equivalent to a standard 4-credit, first-quarter statistics course. With these skills in hand, students can then begin to evaluate policy proposals that attempt to mitigate inequality from both an analytic and a political perspective. Credits equivalencies will be evenly split among economics, political science, sociology, and statistics; plus additional project credits in spring quarter.

Research Opportunities

Spring quarter will provide options for advanced social science research and intermediate statistics projects.

Program Details

Fields of Study

economics law and public policy mathematics political science sociology

Preparatory For

social work, government, and public policy.

Quarters

Winter Open Spring Signature

Location and Schedule

Campus Location

Olympia

Time Offered

Evening

Advertised Schedule

6-10 pm Wed; 9 am-4:30 pm on five Saturdays per quarter (Jan. 12, 19, Feb. 2, 23, Mar. 9, Apr. 6, 13, May 4, 18, Jun. 1). 

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning