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Inequalities Seminar Series

Tuesdays, 12.30-1.45pm

The Inequalities Seminar Series at the International Inequalities Institute is a venue for scholars from LSE and beyond to present their innovative work on social and economic inequality. The series builds on the recently renewed interest of the social sciences for issues of income and wealth inequality. It is also a place for exploring fresh perspectives on the various structural and cultural processes that underlie the formation of inequality broadly defined.

All talks are held on Tuesdays from 12.30-1.45pm in Fawcett House (FAW), 9th Floor, Room 9.05. Buffet lunch will be served at 12pm. The seminars are open and free to all.

Upcoming Inequalities Seminars

Pawel Bukowski - 15th October

Between Communism and Capitalism: Long-Term Inequality in Poland, 1892-2015

15th October, 12.30 to 1.45pm, FAW 9.05

Speaker: Pawel Bukowski 
(Research Officer, LSE)

How has Polish inequality evolved between communism and capitalism to reach one of the highest levels in Europe today? To address this question, we construct the first series on the long-term distribution of income in Poland by combining tax, household survey and national accounts data. We document a U-shaped evolution of inequalities from the end of the 19th century until today: (i) inequality was high before WWII; (ii) abruptly fell after the introduction of communism in 1947 and stagnated at low levels during the whole communist period; (iii) experienced a sharp rise with the return to capitalism in 1989. Between 1989 and 2015 the top 10% income share increased from 23% to 35% and the top 1% income share from 4% to 13%. Frequently quoted Poland’s transition success has largely benefited top income groups.

We find that inequality was high in the first half of the 20th century due to strong concentration of capital income at the top of the distribution. The secular fall after WW2 was largely to a combination of capital income shocks from war destructions with communist policies both eliminating private ownership and forcing wage compression. The rise of inequality after the return to capitalism in the early 1990s was induced both by the rise of top labour and capital incomes. We attribute this to labour market liberalisation and privatisation. However, the strong rise in inequality in the 2000s was driven solely by the increase in top capital incomes, which is likely related to current globalization forces. Yet overall, the unique Polish inequality history speaks about the central role of policies and institutions in shaping inequality in the long run.

Tom Kemeny

Superstar cities and left-behind places: A long-run perspective on U.S. interregional inequality 

29th October, 12.30 to 1.45pm, FAW 9.05

Speaker: Dr Tom Kemeny (Visiting Fellow at the International Inequalities Institute)

Around 1980, interregional income inequality in the US began to grow, as it did in a wide range of other countries. In the US, some people moved to opportunity, newly concentrated in a limited subset of urbanized locations, but overall migration rates shrunk. As a consequence, many Americans have become stuck in places that offer few opportunities. This shift is economically important, and it also appears to be related to the recent upsurge in populist politics. And yet divergence is not a constant or necessary feature of the space-economy. Indeed, it strongly contrasts with patterns experienced during the mid-20th century, where people were more mobile and gaps between places diminished. And partly because many of our core theories of urban growth and change are premised on the record of this earlier period, we face real challenges to explain what we see today, and to design policies that address the fallout. All of this points to an urgent need to (a) better understand the current moment, and in light of this (b) retheorize urban growth. In my talk, I will attempt to do both. I will propose a ‘structural’ theory featuring regular, alternating patterns of convergence and divergence. Major, disruptive technology shocks – or industrial revolutions – regulate this ‘wave’ pattern, increasing the gaps between places, and then later diminishing them. I will sketch mechanisms that could generate these facts, and provide descriptive evidence in support of these ideas by analyzing information on US regional economies since 1860.


Who Cares in a Shrinking State? Responsibility and Respectability Reconsidered

19th November 2019, 12.30-1.45 & a further workshop from 2.15 till 4pm, FAW 9.05

Speakers: Professor Mary Evans (LSE Centennial Professor at the Department of Gender Studies Department of Gender Studies), Professor Beverley (III Research Theme Convenor and AFSEE Academic Advisor International Inequalities Institute), Dr Insa Koch (Associate Professor of Law and Anthropology Department of Law)

Aaron Reeves 2

Aristocratic, Highbrow and Ordinary: Shifting Modes of Elite Distinction 1897-2016

3rd December 2019, 12.30 to 1.45, FAW 9.05

Speakers: Dr Sam Friedman (Associate Professor Department of Sociology), Dr Aaron Reeves (Visiting Senior Fellow, International Inequalities Institute)

Chair: Nora Ratzmann (PhD candidate, Department of Social Policy)

How do elites signal their superior social position through the consumption of culture? In this paper we answer this foundational question by drawing on 120 years of ‘recreations’ data (N = 71,393) contained within Who’s Who – a unique catalogue of the British elite. Our results reveal three distinct stages of elite culture. First, a dominant mode of aristocratic practice forged around the leisure possibilities afforded by landed estates which waned significantly in the late 19th century. Second, a highbrow mode dominated by the fine arts which increased sharply in the early 20th century before gently receding in the most recent birth cohorts; and, third, a contemporary mode characterised by the blending of highbrow pursuits with more everyday forms of cultural participation, such as spending time with family, friends and pets. These shifts not only reveal changes in the contents of elite culture but also in the nature of elite distinction – in particular; 1) how the applicability of emulation and misrecognition theories has changed over time, 2) the emergence of a contemporary mode that publicly emphasises everyday cultural practice (to accentuate ordinariness, authenticity and cultural connection) while at the same time retaining many tastes that continue to be misrecognised as legitimate.  



Previous Inequalities Seminars 2019


Mike Savage - 7th October

The life and times of categorical inequality: class, gender and race in long term historical perspective

1st October, 12.30 to 1.45pm, FAW 9.05
Speaker: Professor Mike Savage (Director, International Inequalities Institute, LSE)

Chair: Dr Luna Glucksberg (Research Fellow at the International Inequalities Institute)

This talk will reflect on the current ‘state of the debate’ about inequality. Although inequality is increasingly widely recognised to be a major concern which requires the kind of interdisciplinary initiatives that the III facilitates, a number of major challenges have come to the fore. This talk will reflect on one of these, how to link analyses of income and wealth distributions, which the economists have brought to the fore, with the categorical analyses of gender, race and class which other social scientists emphasise, and which raise major questions of political action. Drawing  on Mike Savage's forthcoming book, The challenge of inequality: social change and the return of history I will speculatively lay out recent trends in inequality along axes of gender, race and class to show how they both disrupt, but also might empower, an overarching account of the intensification of inequalities.

Katharina Hecht 1

Can public consensus identify a ‘riches line’?                                     

Speakers:  Dr Katharina Hecht (LSE, III) and Abigail Davis (Loughborough University)

21st May12.30-1.45pm, Fawcett House (FAW), Room 9.05

While frequently discussed in the media and in popular discourse, so far not much attention has been paid to defining, and analysing public views towards, ‘the rich’ or ‘riches’ in the social sciences. In addition to addressing a gap in our research knowledge, this pilot study addresses an urgent everyday issue, at a time in which resources accruing to the very rich are ever-increasing, while many are suffering the consequences of austerity policies, including extreme food and housing insecurity.


There is a well-established research tradition that aims to build a definition of a Minimum Income Standard (MIS) based on public consensus. Our novel study seeks to draw on public consensus methods, but deploy them at the other end of the income and wealth distributions, to understand how ‘riches’ or ‘the rich’ might be defined.


The study is a first step in exploring whether members of the public in London can reach a consensus about whether there is a threshold above which people could be considered to have too much, akin to how a poverty line signifies a threshold below which people do not have enough. Specifically, it aims to analyse whether a negotiated consensus among groups of members of the public on different levels of income, can develop such a concept. The findings provide novel insights into people’s views on what it means to have high levels of income and wealth and what different levels of richness entail (description), as well as unpacking people’s judgements about different forms of wealth and the uses to which it is put (normative evaluation). 




The open-and-shut case of inequality                                                  

Speaker: Dr Jan Vandemoortele

7th May, 12.30-1.45pm, Fawcett House (FAW), Room 9.05

The latest evidence shows that people in countries with low inequality are amongst the happiest and healthiest. In those countries, economic growth, education and social mobility tend to be high, whilst social ills such as gender discrimination, crime, fraud, corruption, alcohol and drugs abuse, bullying at school are less. People there tend to use less water, produce less waste and emit less CO2; thus leaving a smaller ecolo gical footprint. Hence, the world is not facing two separate challenges, one ecological and the other socioeconomic; but one complex and inter-connected challenge in which inequality plays a central role. The impact of inequality on how people feel, reason and act is grossly underestimated. The first step in reducing inequality is to fully understand its harmful effects, rather than to deepen our analysis of its causes and potential remedies. The article aims to contribute to such increased awareness. It draws together the latest evidence from a wide range of disciplines. It clarifies four conceptual dichotomies that are important in elucidating the debate about inequality. It reviews the concerns expressed by historians, philosophers and political scientists about inequality. In concluding, it makes a concrete proposal for enhancing our comprehension of the impact of inequality.


Mark Fransham

A tale of two towns: what the fortunes of Oldham and Oxford tell us about spatial inequality in Britain                                                        26th March 2019 

Speaker: Dr Mark Fransham (International Inequalities Institute, LSE)

Podcast available here 



Erica Lagalisse 2

Adventures in Anarcolandia: the complexities and contradictions of transnational anarchist social movements                                        12th March 2019 

Speaker: Dr Erica Lagalisse (International Inequalities Institute, LSE)

Contemporary anarchist activists aim to manifest non-hierarchical social relations within their own social milieu, as well as topple the social hierarchies that characterize the dominant society, such as white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism: Anarchists observe the importance of “means” matching “ends” and work to bring about “a new world in the shell of the old”. I argue however that anarchist activism in North America does not entirely subvert the logic of neoliberalism. Colonial property relations, bureaucratic legalism, and statistical fantasies of the sovereign state (among other linear equations) continue to inflect anarchist politics and self-making projects: the rhizome is re-territorialized.

My multi-sited ethnography explores anarchist networks that cross Québec, the United States and Mexico to demonstrate how anarchist practice is mired in contradiction, especially to the extent that this practice is shaped by notions of self and property (propriety) dominant in English-speaking North America. My comparative study illustrates similarities and differences among diverse anarchist scenes, throwing into relief the particular practices of university-educated Anglo American leftists, and draws on anthropological, feminist and critical race theory to show how they have preempted the black feminist challenge of “intersectionality” by recuperating its praxis within the logic of neoliberal self-making projects and property relations, a particular economy of value in which certain identities are foregrounded and others—especially that of class—are effectively concealed. Ultimately the anarchists are presented as a limit case: even within their “autonomous” everyday practices, the propertizing self prevails in what I call the game of “good politics” - the Bridge of all prestige games, and one which structures much contemporary critical academic scholarship as well.



How the Reification of Merit Breeds Inequality: theory and experimental evidence                                                                                Tuesday, 26th February, 2019 

Speaker: Dr Fabien Accominotti (Department of Sociology, LSE)

Podcast available here 


Andrew-Summers-2016-Cropped-200x200 (1)

The Missing Billions: Measuring Top Incomes in the UK       Tuesday, 5th February, 2019

Speaker: Dr Andrew Summers (Department of Law, LSE)

Podcast available here  


Jonathan Mijs

The Paradox of Inequality: income inequality and belief in meritocracy go hand in hand                                                                       Tuesday, 22nd January,  2019                                         

Speaker: Dr Jonathan Mijs  (International Inequalities Institute, LSE)

Podcast available here 



Previous Inequalities Seminars 2018


Susanne Wessendorf

The ‘Essex Hijab’. Fitting into the diverse city: social exclusion, symbolic boundaries and convivial labour in East London             Tuesday, 4th December, 2018

Speaker: Dr Susanne Wessendorf

This paper addresses how long-established ethnic minorities in East London react to new immigration. By drawing on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork, it looks at how long-term experiences of stigmatisation among ethnic minorities impact on their perceptions of newcomers, and how, in the context of socio-economic precariousness, these perceptions are characterized by a combination of empathy and resentment.


KateSummers2018 2

Experiences of money from the perspectives of London’s ‘rich’ and ‘poor’                                                                                                    Tuesday, 20th November, 2018

Speakers: Dr Kate Summers and Dr Katharina Hecht

Podcast available here 



Tackling ethnic disparities using websites                                          Tuesday, 30th October, 2018

Speaker: Zamila Bunglawala, Visiting Fellow III and Deputy Director - Strategy and Insight, Race Disparity Unit, Cabinet Office

Podcast available here 



Inclusive Growth in cities: a sympathetic critique                  Tuesday, 16th October, 2018                                                        Speaker: Dr Neil Lee                                                                       

Podcast available here 



Luna Glucksberg

Ethnographic exploration of the socio-economic transformation of the Basque country                                                                                    Tuesday, 2nd October, 2018                                                                Speaker: Dr Luna Glucksberg     

Podcast available here




Gender Inequalities in India
Tuesday, 29th May 2018
Speakers: Dr Naila Kabeer and Nivedita Narain (PRADAN)




Recasting the UNDP's Human Development Measures
Tuesday, 8th May 2018
Speaker: Professor Sudhir Anand
Chair: Dr Aaron Reeves



Chiara Mariotti

Great Expectations: Is the IMF turning words into action on inequality?
Tuesday, 1st May 2018
Speaker: Chiara Mariotti (Inequality Policy Manager, Oxfam)



Joana Naritomi

The Effects of Welfare Programs on Formal Labour Markets in Middle-Income Countries: Evidence from Conditional Cash Transfers in Brazil
Tuesday, 20th March 2018
Speaker: Dr Joana Naritomi (LSE International Development)


Sarah Goff

The stakes of trade policy: global and domestic inequalities
Tuesday, 20th February 2018
Speaker: Dr Sarah Goff (LSE Government)

Podcast available here.



Sonia Exley

Selective schooling and its relationship to private tutoring: lessons from South Korea
Tuesday, 30th January 2018
Speaker: Dr Sonia Exley (LSE Social Policy)

Podcast available here.



Income Inequality and Welfare Systems in the Yugoslav Successor States
Tuesday, 23rd January 2018
Speakers: Dr Will Bartlett (LSEE Research on South East Europe), Dr Nermin Oruč (Center for Development Evaluation and Social Science Research, Sarajevo), Dr Jelena Žarković Rakic (University of Belgrade) and Dr Gorana Krstić (University of Belgrade)

Podcast available here.


Thomas Shapiro 2

Economic and Racial Drivers of Toxic Inequality in the United States: Two Narratives, One Story
Tuesday, 16th January 2018
Speaker: Professor Thomas Shapiro (Brandeis University)

Podcast available here.

Previous Inequalities Seminars 2017


Inequality as Service
Tuesday, 28th November 2017 
Speaker: Dr Paul Segal (King's College London; LSE III) 



Anne Power

Can Social Landlords Make Private Renting Work Better?
Tuesday, 4th November 2017
Speaker: Professor Anne Power

Podcast available here.



Paul Willman

Do Firms Manage Pay Inequality?
Tuesday, 24th October 2017
Speaker: Professor Paul Willman

Podcast available here.



Aaron Reeves 2

The Decline and Persistence of the Old Boy: Private Schools and Elite Recruitment 1897-2016
Tuesday, 10th October 2017
Speakers: Dr Aaron Reeves (LSE III) and Dr Sam Friedman (LSE Sociology)
Chair: Professor Mike Savage (LSE III)

Video recording available here.


Naila Kabeer

Inequalities Seminar: Intersecting inequalities and the Sustainable Development Goals: insights from Brazil
Tuesday, 9th May 2017
Speaker: Professor Naila Kabeer (LSE Gender Instittue and Department of International Development)

Podcast available here.



Lisa Mckenzie

Inequalities Seminar: Post-Industrialisation in the East Midlands: ethnographic narratives from the communities that were thrown under the Brexit bus
Tuesday, 2nd May 2017
Speaker: Dr Lisa Mckenzie (LSE Sociology)

Podcast available here.



Joan Costa-i-Font

Health and Income Inequality Aversion: results from a UK survey experiment
Tuesday, 25th April 2017
Speaker: Dr Joan Costa-i-Font (LSE Social Policy and European Institute)


Dynamics of Democracy and Inequality in the context of Globalization
Tuesday, 21st March 2017
Speaker: Dr Dena Freeman (Senior Visiting Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, LSE and an Associate of the III)

Podcast available here.


Michele Lamont2

Adressing recognition gaps: destigmatization processes and the making of inequality
Tuesday, 7th March 2017
Speaker: Professor Michele Lamont (Harvard University)

Podcast available here



Polly Vizard

Older peoples' experiences of dignity and nutritional support during hospital stays
Tuesday, 21st February 2017
Speaker: Dr Polly Vizard (LSE CASE)

Podcast available here.



Catherine Boone profile pic

Regional Inequality and Preferences for Market-Promoting Land Law Reform: Kenya Pilot Study
Tuesday, 31st January 2017
Speaker: Professor Catherine Boone (LSE Departments of Government and International Development)

Podcast available here.



Who are the Global Top 1%?
Tuesday, 17th January 2017
Speaker: Dr Paul Segal (Senior Lecturer in Economics at Kings College London, Visiting Fellow at the III)

Podcast available here.


Leslie McCall 2

Support for Redistribution: preferences for reducing economic inequality in the US and Sweden
Tuesday, 29th November 2016
Speaker: Professor Leslie McCall (Northwestern University)





Thomas diPrete

The Strength of Weak Performance: a relational theory of executive pay
Tuesday, 8th November 2016
Speaker: Professor Thomas A. DiPrete (Columbia University)






The Organizational Production of Earnings Inequalities
Tuesday, 25th October 2016
Speaker: Professor Donald Tomaskovic-Devey (UMASS)

Podcast available here.





Sarah Voitchovsky

Top Incomes and the Gender Divide
Tuesday, 27th September 2016
Speakers: Professor Alessandra Casarico (Bocconi) and Dr Sarah Voitchovsky (University of Melbourne)

Read the corresponding Working Paper here.