ASTK18404U The Politics of Inequality

Volume 2024/2025

Full-degree students enrolled at the Department of Political Science, UCPH

MSc in Political Science

MSc in Social Science

MSc in Security Risk Management

Bachelor in Political Science


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH

Master Programme in Global DevelopmentMaster Programme in Social Data Science

Bachelor and Master Programmes in Anthropology

Bachelor and Master Programmes in Psychology

Master Programme in Sociology

Bachelor and Master Programmes in Economics


Enrolled students register the course through the Selfservice. Please contact the study administration at each programme for questions regarding registration.


Since the 1980s economic inequality has risen dramatically in most advanced democracies. In Denmark, for example, the richest 1% of adults received almost twice as much of total national income (pre-tax) in 2020 compared to 1980 (12.9% vs. 6.8%). In the United States, the pattern is even more pronounced: here the top 1% today receives more of total pre-tax income than the bottom 50%. What is driving these dramatic changes in economic inequality? And how does rising economic inequality affect democracy, politics, and political preferences?


In this course, we will investigate the (economic and political) causes and consequences of rising economic inequality. In doing so, we will read and discuss both classic and recent work that seeks to provide answers to the questions raised above. Specifically, we will discuss i) how the post-1980 era is different from the one that came before, ii) how economic inequality affects the redistribution of income from the rich to the poor, iii) how it transforms preferences for redistribution and taxation, iv) whether rising inequality is a democratic problem, iv) and whether it increases political inequality and the distribution of political power.

Learning Outcome


Upon completion of the course, the students will have gained:

  • a basic understanding of the major debates regarding the politics of inequality
  • knowledge to participate in societal debates about politics and the economy.



  • The course will strengthen the student’s analytical skills and their ability to formulate convincing and coherent arguments.
  • Students will gain the skills to describe and discuss the major debates regarding economic and political inequality
  • The course will enable students to discuss and critically analyze empirical studies on the topic.



  • Make use of and evaluate different theories on the topic.
  • Develop and test own research questions.

During the course, we will read a mix of classic and new work on democracy, economic inequality, redistribution, and political representation.


Total number of pages: 1000-1200

The course will be highly discussion based mixed with the occasional short lecture and group work.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Free written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner