An Inequality Reading List from Daron Acemoglu

Rohan Mascarenhas, Russell Sage Foundation
December 19, 2011

inequalityThe website FiveBooks recently asked economist Daron Acemoglu to recommend a reading list on rising inequality in the industrialized world. He listed two books that are connected to research funded by the Russell Sage Foundation: The Race Between Technology and Education (co-authored by RSF trustee Lawrence Katz) and Unequal Democracy, which was co-published by the Foundation.

Here's what Acemoglu said about Katz's book:

This is a really wonderful book. It gives a masterful outline of the standard economic model, where earnings are proportional to contribution, or to productivity. It highlights in a very clear manner what determines the productivities of different individuals and different groups. It takes its cue from a phrase that the famous Dutch economist, Jan Tinbergen coined. The key idea is that technological changes often increase the demand for more skilled workers, so in order to keep inequality in check you need to have a steady increase in the supply of skilled workers in the economy. He called this “the race between education and technology”. If the race is won by technology, inequality tends to increase, if the race is won by education, inequality tends to decrease.

And here is his take on Bartels' book on political inequality:

The real worry is that as inequality has increased in the US, and perhaps because the nature of our political system has changed for other reasons, money has started becoming much more important in politics. Politicians have become much more responsive to the wishes and the views and the voice of the very wealthy. That’s what Larry Bartels’s book, Unequal Democracy, is about. There are parts of it that you may agree with, there are parts of it you may not agree with, but I think it paints a very alarming picture of how our democracy has become much more unequal.

Read the full interview with Acemoglu.


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