All too often, the term “inequality” is routinely qualified with epithets such as “large” and “growing”. However, using longer-term time series, one can identify fluctuations (such as the much-debated Kuznets curve, an inverted U-shaped figure that describes the assumed relationship between development and inequality and that is named after Simon Kuznets), long-term trends (Piketty recently detected a global rise in inequality since the Second World War), jumps (such as the dramatic increase in inequality in some post-communist countries after the systemic change), stagnation or no change (some continental welfare states, for example, do not seem to have witnessed any major changes in traditional inequality measures in the 2000s). There are, therefore, spells of inequality growth and inequality decline as well, and there is considerable variation across countries.

Central and Eastern European post-communist countries, once belonging to the same inequality league in Europe, form now, 27 years after the transitions started, a very heterogeneous country grouping. Level, time-trends and determinants of inequality vary to a great deal among them, despite the fact that all had the same hopes at the beginning and all are part of the same European integration now.

The course intends to drive students through the “whats”, “whys” and “hows” of inequality change in general. It is centered around four major themes in research of income distribution: (I) philosophy and measurement; (II) trends and international comparisons; (III) the sources, drivers and mechanisms of inequality; (IV) perceptions, legitimacy and political economy. The idea is that for each of these topics the course explores the theoretical background, the measurement/empirics and the available research findings. At a certain point, we also turn our attention to the particular CEE context.

Section Teacher

István György Tóth

Director, Tárki Social Research Institute
Affiliated Professor, Budapest Corvinus University
Curriculum vitae


Section organizers

Anna Augusztin

Corvinus University of Budapest
+36 70 528 5451

Attila Csoma

Corvinus University of Budapest
+36 30 605 0550


Section topics in details

Day 1

1: Course overview, topics, aims, data

2-4: Measurement and philosophy: inequality of what? (dimensions of inequality, units of analysis, statistics and welfare weights, data sources)

Day 2

5-6: International horizons: concepts, time trends of inequality change in OECD and in Europe

7-8: A special focus on inequalities in CEE countries: tansition, convergence, recession and aftermath

Day 3

9-10: Drivers and mechanisms of inequality change: macro stuctural change, globalisation and trade, institutions (political and labour market) and redistribution (tax/transfer schemes)

Day 4

11-12: Perceptions, legitimacy and political economy

13-14: Closing of the section, student presentations


Requirements and application

Students will be expected to have finished basic introductory courses in social and economic sciences by the start of the conference. Basic economics and/or sociology and/or political science courses are assumed. Ability to ask fresh questions and to work hard on answering them is an asset.  Completion of the course will include drafting a case study – topics and methods to be discussed onsite.  Please be prepared to actively participate in that.

To apply, please send a CV and a short (500-1000 words) blogpost. This blog post can be either an introduction of the problem in your country or a review of a scientific article related to the topic of inequality. Evaluation of the application will be based on these three documents.