Dimensions of Inequality: Social Science and Statistics

Winter 2019
Spring 2019
Class Size: 50
Credits per quarter
Variable Credit Options Available

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Taught by

physics, education
Howard Schwartz
political science, policy

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. Students registering for 12 credits will meet with faculty to decide on details for additional work which may include extra readings and study in a structured setting, research projects, or other project-based work

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.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

social work, government, and public policy.


Credits per quarter
Variable Credit Options Available

Variable Credit Options:

In spring, students may register for 8-14 credits based on their project proposal. The standard program is 8 credits, and the project will be developed as an in-program learning contract for additional credit.

No signature is required to register for 8 credits. Students registering for more than 8 credits must meet with faculty to discuss credit options and get a faculty signature after co-developing a project proposal prior to the beginning of the quarter.

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.
Research Opportunities:

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

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 50

Scheduled for: Evening

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 - 6:00 pm
SEM 2 B3107 - Seminar

Advertised schedule:

Mon/Wed 6-10pm

Located in: Olympia

2018-12-1712-credit option added for Winter
2018-05-30Schedule changed: Class now meets Mon/Wed (was Wed/Sat)