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Inequalities Seminar Series

Tuesdays, 12.30-1.30pm

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.

The seminars are open and free to all. 

Inequalities Seminars 2021

Lee Elliot Major-01[2]

Apocalypse or new dawn? Social mobility, inequality and education in the post-COVID era

Part of the III Inequalities Seminar Series 

Tuesday 19 January 2021, 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Online public event. 

What are the prospects for social mobility in the wake of the Covid pandemic? Britain’s first Professor of Social Mobility will assess the future implications of growing educational and societal inequalities, drawing on evidence from the latest research and his new book.

Social mobility can be defined in many ways, but however conceived the dials appear to be pointing in the wrong direction, particularly for ‘Generation Covid’, the under 25s. We are failing the basic fairness test in society: with inequalities so extreme those on the lower rungs of the economic or social ladder face an impossible task in forging a decent life, let alone climbing the ladder. The Covid crisis has highlighted the escalating expectations placed on teachers, and the education system more widely, to solve all of society’s ills.

Building a more mobile and equal society will require radical long-term reforms both outside and inside the school gates, including a one-off progressive wealth tax; guarantees for decent and valuable jobs across all regions of the country; a credible vocational stream linking education and work; more resources for schoolsto tackle social welfare alongside teaching and learning; and a step change in the social mobility approach within universities.

Some scholars predict that society will eventually unravel as the disenfranchised rise up against the elites. But the Covid crisis also offers an historic opportunity to reset society and create a fairer and more sustainable future for all.

Speaker: Professor Lee Elliot-Major (Professor of Social Mobility, University of Exeter) 

Chair: Dr Sara Camacho-Felix (Assistant Professorial Lecturer, LSE III)

Register for this event

Please note that attendees will receive the Zoom link one day before the event and registration will close one hour before the event begins.

Aaron Reeves 2

The unintended consequences of quantifying quality: Does ranking school performance shape the geographical concentration of advantage? 

Part of the III Inequalities Seminar Series 

Tuesday 26 January 2021, 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Online public event. 

In this paper we investigate whether quantifying school performance can have the perverse consequence of increasing the spatial concentration of advantage. Combining research on residential segregation with the sociology of quantification, we argue that ranking school performance may induce affluent parents to sort into areas with higher ranked schools. We explore this hypothesis by analysing whether the introduction of league tables measuring school performance in the early 1990s in the UK affected the spatial concentration of advantage. Using linked decennial census data collected between 1981 and 2011, we find that the introduction of league tables was associated with an increase in the geographical concentration of occupational class. Advantaged households containing children became more likely to move to areas with better performing schools after the introduction of league tables compared to less advantaged households. Quantifying school quality has the unintended consequence of increasing the geographical concentration of advantage, potentially entrenching poverty and inequality.  

Speakers: Dr Aaron Reeves (Associate Professor in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at Oxford University, and a Visiting Senior Fellow in the International Inequalities Institute), Daniel McArthur (Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University) 

Chair: Dr Nora Waitkus (Research Officer, LSE III)

David Hope

The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts on the Rich

Part of the III Inequalities Seminar Series 

Tuesday 02 February 2021, 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Online public event. 

The last 40 years have seen a substantial fall in taxes on the rich across the OECD countries. This coincided with a period of rising income inequality, especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Given the difficulties of establishing causality from cross-country panel studies, however, the extent to which tax cuts on the rich have driven up income inequality remains an open empirical question. This paper aims to fill that gap in the literature by using new matching techniques for panel data to estimate the causal effect of major tax cuts on the rich on income inequality. As proponents of tax cuts on the rich often argue for their beneficial effects on economic performance due to efficiency gains and the reduction of behavioural distortions, we also estimate the effects of major tax cuts on the rich on economic growth and unemployment. Our analysis finds strong evidence that cutting taxes on the rich increases income inequality but has no effect on growth or unemployment. Overall, this new research suggests that lower taxes on the rich have made a significant contribution to increased income inequality in the OECD countries since the 1980s, with no offsetting gains in economic performance.

Speakers: Dr David Hope (Department of Political Economy, Kings College London, Visiting Research Fellow, International Inequalities Institute), Dr Julian Limberg (Department of Political Economy, Kings College London)

Chair: Dr Luna Glucksberg (Research Fellow, LSE III)


The changing geography of social mobility in the United States

Part of the III Inequalities Seminar Series 

Tuesday 16 February 2021, 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Online public event.

New evidence shows that intergenerational social mobility – the rate at which children born into poverty climb the income ladder – varies considerably across the United States. Is this current geography of opportunity something new or does it reflect a continuation of long-term trends? We answer this question by constructing new data on the levels and determinants of social mobility across American regions over the twentieth century. We find that the changing geography of opportunity-generating economic activity restructures the landscape of intergenerational mobility, but factors associated with specific regional structures of interpersonal inequality that have “deep roots” generate persistence. This is evident in the sharp decline in social mobility in the Midwest as economic activity has shifted away from it, and the consistently low levels of opportunity in the South even as economic activity has shifted toward it. We conclude that the long-term geography of social mobility can be understood through the deep roots and changing economic fortunes of places.

Speaker: Dr Dylan Connor (Assistant Professor at School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University) 

Chair: tbc

Dr Alpa ShahProfessor Laura BearDr Nicholas Long

Households, Inequalities and Care: lockdown experiences from the UK, New Zealand and India

Part of the III Inequalities Seminar Series 

Tuesday 09 March 2021, 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Online public event.

This event will explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need to centre an understanding of the household in policy-making and politics if we are to mitigate inequalities. It will do so by unveiling the insights of immersive anthropological research on the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns as experienced in the UK, New Zealand and India. It will explore the inequalities, in particular an informal and formal care deficit generated by UK national and local lockdowns, along with the problematic assumptions about the household and community in COVID-19 policy interventions in the UK. It will analyse the success, but also the limitations, of bubble policies in the New Zealand as a strategy for allowing citizens to support loved ones living beyond their immediate residence whilst nevertheless preventing the spread of COVID-19. And it will highlight the significance of the spatio-temporal division of households that were at the heart of the plight of the hundreds of thousands of migrant labours who took to their feet and marched home when the lockdowns were called in India. Overall, we will suggest alternative approaches to policy and politics grounded in anthropological insights and methods.

Speakers: Dr Alpa Shah (Associate Professor of Anthropology; Research Theme leader of ‘Global Economies of Care’, III, LSE), Professor Laura Bear (Professor of Anthropology, LSE), Dr Nick Long (Associate Professor of Anthropologu, LSE)

Chair: Dr Insa Koch (Associate Professor of Law and Anthropology)

When Violence endures image

When violence endures: inequality, resistance, and repression in India's Maoist guerrilla zones

Part of the III Inequalities Seminar Series 

Tuesday 23 March 2021, 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Online public event. 

This paper engages with the concept of violence in the context of the ongoing Maoist insurgency and counterinsurgency in India. During the five-decade-long armed conflict involving the Maoist guerrillas and the landless/poor peasants on the one side, and the state security forces and upper-caste/private militias on the other, violence has taken multiple forms. It has spiralled, giving rise to new formations and new theatres of war, especially in the forested areas which are home to indigenous populations. In this paper, I attempt to conceptualise this enduring violence and reflect on the possibility of resolutions, drawing on twenty years of my research in conflict-affected regions in India, and recently in Colombia. Employing the framework of the ‘Spiral of Violence’ developed by Helder Camara (1909–1999), a Brazilian liberation theologian, I explore the many faces of violence as manifested in a continuum of structural inequality, resistance and repression. As there has been no meaningful transition from violence to peace in India’s guerrilla zones, I draw on a comparative model, and discuss the insights that the 2016 peace agreement in Colombia might provide for India. In Colombia, also ravaged by the cycle of violence, the peace agreement between the FARC and the state facilitated the end of a similarly long-lasting armed conflict. The comprehensive peace process in Colombia, in spite of its setbacks, has demonstrated that without addressing the persisting inequalities, the spiral of violence cannot be broken. What could India learn from the achievements and pitfalls of the Colombian model?

Speaker: George Kunnath (Research Fellow, III)

ChairDr Armine Ishkanian (III Research Theme Convenor (Politics of Inequality), Executive Director AFSEE programme and Associate Professor at the Department of Social Policy, LSE)


Previous Inequalities Seminars 2020

Joana Naritomi 1 Dec

The Effects of Cash Transfers on Formal Labor Markets: evidence from Brazil 

Inequalities Seminar Series

Tuesday 1 December 2020, 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Online public event

Speaker: Dr Joana Naritomi (Assistant Professor, Department of International Development, LSE)

ChairDr Armine Ishkanian (III Research Theme Convenor (Politics of Inequality), Executive Director AFSEE programme and Associate Professor at the Department of Social Policy, LSE)

Cash transfers have expanded widely in developing countries, and have been credited for a sizable reduction in poverty rates. Yet, the potential unintended consequences of these programs for labor markets have spurred a heated policy debate. Our results highlight the importance of accounting for both individual and aggregate effects of welfare programs in policy debates. 


Found in Translation? Language Legislation and Pro-Social Preferences

Part of the III Seminar Series 

Tuesday 17 November 2020, 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Online public event

Speaker: Frank A. Cowell (Department of Economics, LSE)

Chair: Professor Francisco Ferreira (Amartya Sen Professor of Inequalities, Director International Inequalities Institute

Language plays a central role in shaping people's identities. In multilingual countries, the legal recognition of a language increases its status; this may influence attitudes towards others and their preferences for redistribution. This paper studies the effect of the progressive introduction of official language recognition (OLR) in Indian states, on pro-social behaviour, including tolerance, willingness to redistribute and unselfishness. The exposure to OLR increases has a significant impact on pro-social behaviour, one that is modified by factors such as whether respondents are Hindi speakers.

Listen to the podcast here

Watch the video here

Benoît Decerf 200x200

Lives and Livelihoods: estimates of the global mortality and poverty effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

Part of the III Seminar Series 

Tuesday 27 October 2020, 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Online public event

Speaker: Dr Benoit Decerf (University of Namur)

Chair: Professor Kirsten Sehnbruch (Distinguished Policy Fellow, LSE III)

This event will evaluate the global welfare consequences of increases in mortality and poverty generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Increases in mortality are measured in terms of the number of years of life lost (LY) to the pandemic.

Three main findings arise. First, as of early June 2020, the pandemic (and the observed private and policy responses) has generated at least 68 million additional poverty years and 4.3 million years of life lost across 150 countries. The ratio of PYs to LYs is very large in most countries, suggesting that the poverty consequences of the crisis are of paramount importance. Second, this ratio declines systematically with GDP per capita: poverty accounts for a much greater share of the welfare costs in poorer countries. Finally, the dominance of poverty over mortality is reversed in a counterfactual “herd immunity” scenario: without any policy intervention, LYs tend to be greater than PYs, and the overall welfare losses are greater.

Find PowerPoint slides here

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here

Culture Is Bad for You: inequality in the cultural and creative industries

Part of the III Seminar Series 

Tuesday 13 October 2020, 12:30-1:30pm. Online public event

Speaker: Dr Dave O'Brien (Chancellor’s Fellow, Cultural and Creative Industries, University of Edinburgh)

Chair: Dr Sara Camacho Felix (Assistant Professorial Lecturer, LSE III)

This talk introduces themes from the book Culture is bad for you. The book analyses some of the connections between culture and social inequality. It presents the first large-scale study of social mobility into cultural and creative jobs, along with hundreds of interviews with cultural workers, and new analysis of secondary datasets. It uses this data to show that who works, and who engages, in culture is deeply unequal.

Alongside these themes, the talk addresses the intersection between class, race and gender underpinning exclusions from the workforce and the audience, demonstrating how women, people of colour, and those from working class origins are systematically excluded.

Find PowerPoint slides here

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here

Why do people stay poor?

Inequalities Seminar Series

Tuesday 29 September 2020, 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Online public event

Speaker: Professor Oriana Bandiera (Sir Anthony Atkinson Chair in Economics, Director of STICERD)

Chair: Dr Tahnee Ooms (Research Officer, III)

There are two broad views as to why people stay poor. One emphasizes differences in fundamentals, such as ability, talent or motivation. The other, poverty traps view, differences in opportunities stemming from differences in wealth.

This study exploits a large-scale, randomized asset transfer and panel data on 6000 households over an 11 year period to test between these two views. The data supports the poverty traps view - identifying a threshold level of initial assets above which households accumulate assets, take on better occupations and grow out of poverty. The reverse happens for those below the threshold. The findings imply that big push policies which transform job opportunities for the poor might represent a permanent solution to the global mass poverty problem.

Find PowerPoint slides here

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


Erica Lagalisse 2

Intersectionality and Property: an Ethnographic study of “class” and “identity”
Inequalities Seminar Series


24th March 2020, 12.30 to 1.45pm, FAW 9.05

Speaker: Dr Erica Lagalisse (Visiting Fellow at the International Inequalities Institute)

The intersectionality concept was originally inspired by black feminist militants, who articulated the necessity of approaching projects of both gender and racial liberation based on the experiences and analyses of racialized women.  Since the 1980s, academic articulations of intersectionality continue to develop, as do activist methodologies of intersectionality.

This lecture explores how and why North American anarchist activist mobilizations of intersectionality are not those originally proposed by black feminist activists and theorists, and instead partially pre-empt its liberatory challenge by recuperating its praxis within the logic of neoliberal self-making projects and property relations:  The activists in my study operationalize intersectionality to rationalize class entitlements by propertising the self with (rights-bearing) identities, and do so in ways that presume a symmetry of ontology and mathematics, including the modern governing logics of statistics and calculus.

The study will be of particular interest to people involved in social movements or related research, yet also has relevance beyond insofar as we may consider anarchist activity as a sort of limit case:  Even among anarchists, who aim to operate entirely autonomously from the logics of state and capital, performances of the possessive individual and statistical thinking associated with modern state government prevail in everyday applications of intersectionality. 

As such, the study is positioned to inspire future researchers to consider the extent to which social science writing on intersectionality is likewise influenced by culturally-specific mathematical impulses and imperatives of the propertising self:  By studying “intersectionality” as an ethnographic object, we gain insight into long-standing impasses regarding the status of “class” vs. “identity” as categories in social science debates.

Dr Erica Michelle Lagalisse is a postdoctoral fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE) International Inequalities Institute, under the supervision of Dr. Beverley Skeggs, and with the support of a fellowship from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Société et Culture. She is engaged in multi-sited ethnographic research on the social dynamics surrounding “conspiracy theory” in social movement spaces.  The research seeks to contribute constructive pedagogy around “conspiracy theory” as both a theoretical object and practical political problematic.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSECare


Annette Lareau - Sociologist, University of Pennsylvania

Following the Crowd: The role of social ties in residential decision-making among middle-class families.
Inequalities Seminar Series


Speaker: Professor Annette Lareau (Sociologist, University of Pennsylvania)

How do social ties matter in housing decisions, and ultimately school decisions, for middle-class families?

Using in-depth interviews with middle-class parents of young children, we argue that social ties are crucial in vouching for neighborhoods. Nonetheless, while other research has suggested that middle-class parents vigorously assess opportunities for their children, we were surprised to find that middle-class families usually did not attempt to verify or confirm these endorsements, or to carry out systematic comparisons with alternative options.  Instead, they tended to make rapid (and, arguably, haphazard) decisions to move to a particular neighborhood or community; and, as a result, at least a few indicated that they felt they had made mistakes.  

Annette Lareau is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.  She has spent her career trying to understand the influence of social class on family life. She has always been particularly interested in how families of differing social backgrounds interact with institutions. She is the author of the award-winning book Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life published by University of California Press. This book has been widely adopted in college classrooms; it was discussed, at length, by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. Her first book, Home Advantage, also won the prestigious Distinguished Scholarship Contribution from the Sociology of Education Section of the American Sociological Association. She is also the co-editor (with Kimberly Goyette) of the book Choosing Homes, Choosing Schools as well as Educational Research on Trial, Social Class: How Does it Work, and Journeys through Ethnography. She is writing a book on ethnographic methods. In her current work, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation, she is carrying out in-depth interviews with families who have high net worth. Annette Lareau is the Past President of the American Sociological Association.



Racial Capitalism, Resurgent Populism, and the Politics of Rightsfocus
Inequalities Seminar Series

25th February 2020, 12.30 to 1.45pm, FAW 9.05

Speaker: Professor Michael McCann is Gordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. McCann is author of over sixty article-length publications and author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of eight books, including authoring the multi-award winning monographs Rights at Work: Pay Equity Reform and the Politics of Legal Mobilization (Chicago, 1994) and (with William Haltom) Distorting the Law: Politics, Media, and the Litigation Crisis (Chicago, 2004). His newest book, with George Lovell, is Union by Law: Filipino American Labor Activists, Rights Radicalism, and Racial Capitalism (Chicago 2020). McCann was the founding director of the Law, Societies, & Justice Program as well as the Comparative Law and Society Studies (CLASS) Center at UW; he was also one of the faculty co-founders for the UW Center for Human Rights and a two-term director of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. McCann is winner of multiple teaching and mentoring awards. He also was a President of the U.S. based international Law and Society Association (2011-13). 

Chair: Professor Mike Savage (Director, International Inequalities Institute, LSE).

Scholars on both sides of the Atlantic have identified, often with some alarm, the ways that new populist forms of governance are posing challenges to the liberal rule of law that has constituted regimes in North America, Europe, and beyond in the post-WW II era. The presentation focuses on populist threats to the fundamental rights of persons – both established rights and opportunities for political advocacy of new or “novel’ egalitarian rights. McCann argues that the new populism resurrects illiberal, racist, and patriarchal social and legal norms – what we label as relations enforced by “repressive law” – that coexisted with and undercut liberal norms, institutional arrangements, policies, and elite defenders before the mid-century “racial break.” Because the new populism tens to eschew or scorn even abstract deference to liberal universalist ideals, the politics of rights advocacy, especially for the most vulnerable persons, today faces new types of challenges.


Patrick McGovern - LSE SociologySandra Obradovic - LSE Psychological and Behavioural ScienceMartin W. Bauer - LSE Psychological and Behavioural Science

The dog that didn’t bark? Income inequality and the absence of a Tawney moment in the mass media
Inequalities Seminar Series

18th February 2020, 12.30 to 1.45pm, FAW 9.05

Speakers: Dr Patrick McGovern (Director of the MSc International Migration and Public Policy and an Associate Professor, Reader, in the Department of Sociology), Dr Sandra Obradovic (LSE Fellow in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science), Professor Martin W. Bauer (Director of MSc Social & Public Communication, Professor of Social Psychology Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science)

Have rising levels of income inequality been recognized as a scandalous social problem that requires radically different kinds of policy responses? Or has the topic failed to gain enough attention to be considered as a new social problem with the result that it has become subsumed within existing discussions of economic policy? Drawing on an analysis of UK and US newspapers we find that the coverage of income inequality came in three phases; an initial surge in the 1990s, followed by a decline in the early 2000s, and a second surge that takes off after the economic crisis of 2008. Despite this surge in media attention, the problem of inequality seems to have remained an academic concern as it does not appear to have resonated more widely.

Across the three periods, we observe a shift in framing, some diversity in frame sponsors and a shift in political slant, yet public attitudes towards inequality remain stable across this same time-period. Our argument is that social inequality has not become a mobilizing social problem, at least as reflected in the print media.

First, the dominant frames were centred on seemingly natural or inevitable processes of globalization, market forces and technological change rather than a new sense of economic injustice. Secondly, the sponsors remained as a relatively narrow group of academic and applied economists with some eventual interest from politicians. Finally, resolutions of the problem were subsumed within existing approaches to economic policy that included arguments for raising taxation, increasing the minimum wage or else accepting the rise in economic inequality as a necessary evil that provided rewards for hardworking people. Furthermore, these findings are consistent with system justifying attitudes.

In sum, the academic interest in income inequality has failed to ignite a ‘Tawney moment’, by which we mean, a public discourse that recognizes inequality as a scandalous evil, and names it as such. 

Dr Patrick McGovern is Director of the MSc International Migration and Public Policy and an Associate Professor (Reader) in the Department of Sociology.

Dr Sandra Obradović is an LSE Fellow in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She obtained her BA in Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), her MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and her PhD in Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Professor Martin W. Bauer is the Director of MSc Social & Public Communication, Professor of Social Psychology Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science.

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Download the slides.



It’s Slippery at the Top: churn and anxiety amongst elite families
Inequalities Seminar Series

4th February 2020, 12.30pm to1.45pm, FAW 9.05

Speaker: Dr Luna Glucksberg (Research Fellow, LSE International Inequalities Institute)

Chair: Dr Nora Waitkus (Research Officer, LSE International Inequalities Institute)

This paper takes as a starting point the apparent paradox in the behaviour of elite families who strive to accumulate more and more wealth, fearing to lose their position at the top and slip down the inequality curve. To unpack this contradiction the paper explores the fundamental problem that all elite families face, or rather are told they face, by their advisers: the issue of ‘generational algebra’.

Luna Glucksberg is Research Fellow at III. She is an urban anthropologist looking at inequality and socio-economic stratification in contemporary society. She has worked extensively on elites and how they reproduce; on the roles of women and family offices in the reproduction of dynastic families; and on how philanthropy can be used by elites to strengthen their own family dynamics.

Listen to the podcast episode.

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The Wealth Inequality of Nations: exploring and explaining cross-national differences in wealth
Inequalities Seminar Series

21st January 2020, 12.30pm to 1.45pm, FAW9.05

Speaker: Dr Nora Waitkus (Research Officer, LSE International Inequalities Institute)

Chair: Dr Luna Glucksberg (Research Fellow, LSE International Inequalities Institute)

Comparative research on income inequality has produced several coherent frameworks to study the institutional determinants of income stratification. In contrast, no such framework and much less empirical evidence exist to explain cross-national differences in wealth inequality. This situation is particularly lamentable as cross-national patterns of inequality in wealth diverge sharply from those in income. This talk seeks to pave the way for new institutional explanations of cross-national differences in wealth inequality by tracing them to the influence of different wealth components.

Nora Waitkus is a researcher at the International Inequalities Institute and is a sociologist looking at inequality and socio-economic stratification in contemporary capitalist societies.



Previous Inequalities Seminars 2019



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

3rd December 2019, 12.30 to 1.45, FAW 9.05

Speaker: Dr Sam Friedman (Director, MSc Inequalities and Social Science and Associate Professor Department of Sociology)

Chair: Professor Mike Savage (III Director)

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.  

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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)

As the state in the UK shrinks its responsibility for social care who will provide for the children, the elderly, the less able and those who need care. You may have heard about the “care sandwich” as mothers have to give up work to care for their elderly family members as well as their very young family members and in between the sandwich of young and old is all the regular car that they disperse daily. We used to talk about women’s double burden of domestic and paid work, but this has extended radically. Not only are many women subject to a “triple whammy” through austerity cuts to supportive benefits, with BME women hit the hardest, they now have many more responsibilities as state services in education and health are also cut, and what was once part of the welfare state becomes “women’s work” once more. In this seminar Dr Insa Koch will discuss the nature of the shrinking state, drawing on the impact of the shrinking state on local populations from her empirical study, in the UK published as Personalizing the State: An Anthropology of Law, Politics, and Welfare in Austerity BritainProfessor Mary Evans who is undertaking a project on the nature of respectability. Mary asks “who is responsible?” and how? , what forms of deserving and undeserving distinctions are drawn between women when the state abdicates its responsibility. The event will be chaired by Professor Beverley Skeggs, academic advisor to the III Global Economies of Care research theme and she will be joined by the “Care Collective”, a research group that aims to generate new challenges to the current caring politics. The lunchtime seminar will be followed by a meeting of the research theme to which people are also invited.

Listen to the podcast episode.


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.

Read the slides.


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.

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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.

Read the slides.

Listen to the podcast episode.


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)

Listen to the podcast episode.


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)

Listen to the podcast episode.


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)

Listen to the podcast episode.


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)

Listen to the podcast episode.



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

Listen to the podcast episode



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

Listen to the podcast episode



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

Listen to the podcast episode


Luna Glucksberg

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

Listen to the podcast episode



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)

Listen to the podcast episode.


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)

Listen to the podcast episode.



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)

Listen to the podcast episode.


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)

Listen to the podcast episode.



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

Listen to the podcast episode.


Paul Willman

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

Listen to the podcast episode.


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)

Watch the video.


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)

Listen to the podcast episode.


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)

Listen to the podcast episode. 


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)

Listen to the podcast episode


Michele Lamont2

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

Listen to the podcast episode


Polly Vizard

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

Listen to the podcast episode.


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)

Listen to the podcast episode.



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)

Listen to the podcast episode.


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)

Listen to the podcast episode.


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 Working Paper