The Economics of Inequality, Discrimination, Poverty and Exploitation

Dr Nick Drydakis

There is abundant statistical evidence to indicate that labour market inequalities exist in the EU, the US, China and India. 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, natives earn more than immigrants. In part, the earning differentials among these groups might arise because of differences in social origins, opportunities, educational attainments, training, health and mental health. However, prejudices and stereotypes may well also play their parts. Discrimination towards minority groups has existed in developed and developing economies for decades and although in recent years negative attitudes have declined, workplace discrimination still exists with regard to female employees, older employees, employees with disabilities and employees who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

Empirical EU, US, Chinese and Indian evidence also suggests 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 around the globe and affect people of all ages, genders and races: from migrants forced to work in factories, domestic work or agriculture, to women and children subjected to sexual exploitation.

In this course, we engage in open and critical discussions about questions such as: What is labour market discrimination? Who is poor in developed and developing countries? What is labour-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 measured and reduced? How can preschool interventions reduce inequality? Do immigrant workers depress the wages of native workers? Do immigrants take the jobs of native workers?

This course leads students into critical thinking focused on important concepts relating to inequality, discrimination, poverty, exploitation, migration, and feminism. During the examination of inequality, several alternative theoretical frameworks are examined: Human capital, past inequality the internationalization of production, skill-biased technical changes and labour market institutions.

In examining discrimination, the most well-known frameworks are evaluated: distaste-based discrimination, statistical discrimination, occupational segregation and crowding. In order to evaluate exploitation, both mainstream (Neoclassical) and non-mainstream (Marxist) theories are presented.

In addition, we examine poverty by presenting the most important models such as: Classical; Neoclassical; Monetary; Liberal; Keynesian and Marxist. Moreover, migration and its effect on immigrants’ and natives’ employment outcomes are presented through the following theories: Neoclassical, The new economics of migration, Dual labour market, World systems, Network and Institutional. Feminism is presented through its most important and influential forms: Liberal; Radical; Marxist; Eco and Multicultural.

Intended Audience

The course provides the theoretical and practical knowledge students need to work on inequality, discrimination, poverty and exploitation. It provides a solid basis and training for a wide range of posts in the public sector, and in research centres, non-governmental organizations and foundations. This course aims to become part of the students’ toolkit for their further endeavours.

By the end of this course, students should be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of alternative explanations of inequality, discrimination poverty and exploitation and analyse public policies in the light of the evidence.

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 professionals who respond to inequality, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.

Previous Knowledge

No previous knowledge of economics, sociology or other social sciences is required, but such may be advantageous. However, students should be comfortable manipulating mathematical equations and evaluating empirical tables, and diagrams.

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, discrimination, poverty and exploitation. Students are encouraged to develop their critical reading and writing abilities and their ability to formulate arguments based on their own viewpoints as they relate to the problems and policy actions pertaining to inequality, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.