Fall 2018 - ECON 182 D100

Selected Topics in Economics (3)

Poverty & Inequality

Class Number: 8909

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    WMC 3260, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 8, 2018
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    AQ 3150, Burnaby



The subject matter will vary from term to term. Students may repeat this course for further credit under a different topic.


Selected Topics: Poverty and Equality

Prerequisites: None

We will consider the conceptualization, measurement and evolution of inequality and poverty, with special reference to the comparative setting of the USA and Canada.  Topics will include: Conceptualizing Distribution, Inequality and Poverty; The Evolution of Inequality in the USA and Canada; Poverty and Homelessness; Global Poverty and Inequality; Wealth and Earnings Inequality; Distributive Ethics; Politics and Inequality; and Redistribution.  

The course will focus on various topics, with readings and lectures aimed at fleshing out different aspects of each topic.  Usually, readings and lectures will be complementary to each other, rather than substitutes for each other, so all will be required for successful completion of the course.  

There is 1 required scholarly reading per week, typically 20-30 pages each.  Additionally, there is a textbook, which is much less technical, more Canadian-oriented, and more breezy.  You will have a 1-page weekly assignment related to the reading.  There will also be 1-3 optional readings per week; this is material that I will refer to in lecture but that you are not directly responsible for. Your understanding and integration of the readings is essential for successfully completing the course, and for doing well on the Final exam.  This course is more reading-, and less math-, oriented than a typical first year Economics course.  

Tutorials will focus on discussions and presentations related to the readings and to the lectures.  In some cases, tutorials will have required videos online that you are required to watch before discussing the material in tutorial.  There will be group discussion, and small-group presentations in tutorials as well.  The tutorial grade will depend on participation, presentations and some in-class written work.


Study questions for the final will be available in advance on CANVAS.  Exam questions will be similar in spirit to—but not identical to—study questions. The Final is 3 hours, mostly short-answer, and required.  The final must be written to get a passing grade. There are no re-takes for the final except for medical reasons.            

Weekly written assignments must be handed in at the beginning of class.  The weekly assignments will be closely related to the study questions and the readings.  Typical weekly assignment will be a 2 paragraph answer to a question about the readings.

Tentative Schedule

Readings are keyed to lecture titles and are given in the reading list.  All readings are on the CANVAS course website.  Readings must be done in advance of lectures.

Week# Topic/Activity
04 Sep The Big Picture: Inequality around the world over the century
11 Sep Conceptualizing Distribution and Inequality                        
   Movie: Inequality for All or Saving Capitalism; tools: percentiles, Lorenz Curve, Gini coefficient
18 Sep The Evolution of Inequality in the USA and Canada 
   Why did inequality grow over the last 40 years?
25 Sep Why is There Inequality?                           
   Human capital model (political economy later)
02 Oct Inter-Ethnic Inequality    
   Colonization; Immigration; Ethnicity; Indigenous Peoples
09 Oct Global Inequality     
   Inequality within and across countries; development and convergence
16 Oct Midterm
23 Oct  Poverty within and Across Generations
   Inequality vs poverty; income vs consumption; prices; well-being
30 Oct   Homelessness and Housing
Neccessities; land markets; Vancouver real estate
06 Nov Equality of Opportunity 
   The life-cycle consumption model
13 Nov Political Economy
   Median voter rules; money and the interests 
20 Nov Inequality and Ethics; Why Should We Redistribute?
Utilitiarianism and extensions
27 Dec Redistribution
Policy tools


  • Weekly assignments 25%
  • Tutorial exercises and presentations 25%
  • Midterm 20%
  • Final exam 30%



Osberg, Lars, 2018, The Age of Increasing Inequality.  Toronto: Larimer, 248 pages.  (available as an ebook for $16.95 on 04 Sep 2018) 

Department Undergraduate Notes:


Students requiring  accomodations as a result of a disability must contact the  Centre for Students with Disabilities  at 778 782 3112 or csdo@sfu.ca 

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html