Social Inequality

Why do some have more than others? How are advantages passed from one generation to the next, or how do disadvantages accumulate across the life course? Those are fundamental questions in the study of Inequality – the uneven distribution of some good (e.g. income) or bad (e.g. incarceration) across individuals or groups. A core area of sociology, research in social inequality questions the patterns of inequality and the processes that reproduce or disrupt the hierarchies of advantage. Penn State faculty and graduate students study the poverty rates of neighborhoods; how race, ethnicity, and gender where whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians live in the United States to racial differences in life expectancy in the U.S. and elsewhere to trends in global income inequality. Spatial analysis, data visualization, and methods of decomposition are important tools in understanding changing patterns of social inequality.

Questions Our Faculty and Graduate Students Are Asking about Inequality

  • What are the causes of growing economic inequality?
  • What are the consequences of growing economic inequality?
  • What explains current patterns of racial, ethnic, and gender inequality in the United States and globally?
  • How is neighborhood segregation changing in the United States, and why?
  • Why has education become the leading determinant of life chances?