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Module Code: POU44141

Module Name: Economic Inequality and Democracy 2021-22

  • ECTS Weighting: 5
  • Semester/Term Taught: Semester 1
  • Contact Hours: One 90-minute seminar per week
  • Module Personnel: Dr Alexander Held

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  • have an enhanced understanding of the factors leading to rising economic inequality in advanced industrial democracies
  • be familiar with academic research into the relationship between democracy and inequality
  • have been encouraged, and ideally have learned, to critically assess the material that they encounter

Module Learning Aims

The aim of this module is to deepen students’ understanding not only of the relationship between democracy and increasing economic inequality in advanced industrial countries, but also of the academic research that aims to interpret and understand it.


Module Content

The module will begin by introducing students to the concepts, measurement and historical development of economic inequality in advanced industrial democracies. The module will then focus on the role of globalization and technological change as drivers of rising inequality in recent decades and examine the role of public policies in contributing to or dampening income differentials. The third and largest part of the module will consider the relationship between elections and inequality, asking why voters do not consistently punish governments for allowing increasing concentrations of wealth and income “at the top”: voter cognition and information about inequality, policy responsiveness to public opinion, unequal political participation, the role of culture and ideology, and the recent turn to right-wing populist parties. We will also consider what can be done: what sorts of policy or institutional changes might help reduce economic inequality and how politically feasible these responses might be.

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Recommended Reading List

Larry M. Bartels. 2016. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age. 2nd edition, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Anthony B. Atkinson and Thomas Piketty. 2007. Top Incomes over the Twentieth Century: A Contrast Between Continental European and English-Speaking Countries. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press

Some core readings for this module use quantitative methods. It is recommended that students not familiar with statistical analysis at the level of POU33011 and POU33012 read an introduction to quantitative research methods (e.g. Paul M. Kellstedt and Guy D. Whitten. 2018. The Fundamentals of Political Science Research. 3rd edition, New York: Cambridge University Press.) before the start of the module.


Assessment Details

Essay 1 - weighted 40%
Essay 2 - weighted 60%

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