20110468 - Taxation, Economic Inequalities and Social Justice

The aim of the course is to is to provide students with a basic knowledge of
(a) the extent, the evolution and the main drivers of current income and wealth inequalities acknowledging both the many dimensions of inequality and the partiality of all inequality measures;
b) the main economic and ethical positions on the acceptability/unacceptability of market inequalities;
c) the role of taxation, be it on income or wealth, in curtailing market inequalities in a globalized economy.
scheda docente | materiale didattico


Economic inequalities are often at the center of public debate. But, what to mean exactly by economic inequalities and how to measure them? Furthermore, assuming that not all inequalities are unacceptable, how to distinguish between unacceptable and acceptable inequalities? Which criteria can we use? And, with respect to these latter how to redress them? Finally, doesn’t redressing economic inequalities compromise efficiency and growth? The course aims at addressing these questions, focusing, among the remedies, on the role of taxation.

The course is divided in 4 parts.

Part 1. The main dimensions of economic inequalities (with respect to the “what”, the “who”, the time-frame; the distinction between relative and absolute equality as well as the distinction between inequality and poverty……) and the main measures of economic inequalities.

Part 2. The main trends of economic inequalities in the OECD countries and the main drivers, with a focus on labour income and wealth.

Part 3: The main ethical justifications of economic inequalities (we will concentrate on the libertarian, the meritocratic and the different “egalitarian” arguments that have been made) and the implications for evaluating current inequalities.

Part 4. The role of taxation in curbing economic inequality. Complementarities and trade-off between efficiency and equity.

Testi Adottati

Parts 1-2: handouts that will be made available on moodle

Part 3: Nozick: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nozick-political/ (par.2, 3, 4); Tomasi: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1744-540X.2012.00678.x; Roemer and Trannoy: https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jel.20151206; Granaglia: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0954349X19301523 (and handouts)

Part 4: Rosen Public Finance Chapters 14 (general remarks); 15, 18, 19, 21; Word Inequality Report, Chapters 7-8.

Modalità Erogazione

Lectures and class discussion

Modalità Valutazione

The grade in the course will derive from two sources: 1) a presentation of a case-study and 2) a 60 minutes written final exam. The weights are respectively 40% and 60 %. The presentation will be a powerpoint presentation delivered in class. Topic and bibliography will be selected with the help of the Professor. A brief oral exam is optional.