The Economics of Inequality, Discrimination, Poverty and Exploitation

Dr Nick Drydakis

Abundant statistical evidence exists to indicate labour market inequalities in the EU and the US. Comparisons of natives and immigrants, racial majorities and minorities and of men and women reveal striking differences in income, wages, human capital, employment rates and occupational segregation. In particular, men earn more than women, and whites earn more than blacks. Part of the earning differential among the groups might arise because of differences in social origin, opportunities, educational attainment, and trainings. However, part of the earning inequality among the groups might arise because of prejudices and stereotypes. Discrimination towards minority groups has existed in the EU and the US for decades and although in recent years negative attitudes have declined, workplace discrimination still exists with regards to female employees, employees of older age, employees with disabilities and employees who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

Empirical EU and US evidences also suggest that poverty and unemployment are the two major challenges facing the world economy at present, and that poverty is much higher in some minority groups, including migrants, than in the rest of the population. Moreover, exploitation and modern slavery take various forms in the EU and in the US and affect people of all ages, gender and races, from migrants forced to work in factories, domestic work or agriculture, to children and women subjected to sexual exploitation.

In this course, we will engage in open and critical discussion about questions such as: What is labour market discrimination? Who is poor in the EU and in the U.S.? What is labor market exploitation? Why is inequality concentrated among certain groups characterized by race and sex? How are issues associated with social mobility linked to inequality and poverty? How might inequality, discrimination, poverty and exploitation be reduced?

An understanding of social problems and insight into different perspectives are the important goals of this course. The students will come out of the course becoming knowledgeable participants in public policy debates, learn to form their own policy recommendations based on their own analysis.

The course gives the theoretical and practical knowledge students will need to work on inequality, discrimination, poverty and exploitation. It also provides a solid basis and training for a wide range of posts in the public sector, research centres, non-governmental organizations and foundations.

This course is aimed to: Develop an understanding of the key theoretical concepts of inequality, discrimination, poverty, migration, modern slavery and exploitation. The course discusses the theoretical explanations offered by economists/social scientists and examines the writings of leading experts. By the end of this course, students should be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of alternative explanations of inequality and discrimination and analyse public policies in light of the evidence. In addition, this course will lead students into critical thinking about important concepts related to migration, poverty and exploitation. Upon completion of the course students should have a knowledge of how social scientists define, evaluate, measure and compare income inequality, discrimination, poverty and exploitation, and an understanding of the economic role of social planners as response to inequality, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.

Transferable Knowledge and Skills: This course introduces the tools of economic analysis and develops an understanding of how social science can expand our understanding of the causes, dynamics and manifestations of inequality and discrimination. Students are encouraged to develop their ability to critical reading and writing and to formulate arguments based on their own viewpoint related to the problems and policy actions pertaining to discrimination, poverty and exploitation. This course aims to become part of the students’ toolkit in their further endeavors.

Prerequisite knowledge required: No previous knowledge of economics, sociology or other social sciences is required, but may be an advantage. However, students should be comfortable manipulating basic equations and evaluating diagrammes.


1 Final Essay (2,500-3,000 words): 50%

1 Final Exam: 50%

Lecture Hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar Hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)