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Topics in Social Economics

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 12:30 PM - 2:15 PM (PDT)

Manchester Grand Hyatt, Cove
Hosted By: Association for Social Economics
  • Chair: Chris Jeffords, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Social Status and Intergenerational Equality of Opportunity

Giorgos Galanis
Goldsmiths University of London
Roberto Veneziani
Queen Mary University of London


The paper analyses the egalitarian implications of an Intergenerational Equality of Opportunity (EOp) ethic if date of birth is, and is not, considered as a circumstance in a framework where socioeconomic status of one generation affects the circumstances and possibilities of the next one. We do this using a model which builds on the two-class models of Piketty (1995, 1998) and Roemer and Ünveren (2016) where socioeconomic status of one generation affects social mobility of the next. Contrary to these models where income of the different classes is fixed, in our model we assume fixed relative class population and we allow for income to change. Following Bourdieu (1977, 1986), we assume social class affects cultural capital, which in turn influences educational opportunities and future earned income.
Individual characteristics can be divided into two categories: the ones that are due to circumstances beyond one’s control hence people should not be held responsible for; and the ones people should be held responsible for because they are to a great extent due to individual “free” choices. According to Roemer (1998), the vector of characteristics which are considered as circumstances defines individual types such that inequality within types can be considered as fair while inequality across types is unfair. Based on this, an EOp policy should aim to maximise the average welfare (or advantage) across individuals of the worst-off type. Our paper argues that if date of birth is a circumstance then, in a two-class model with infinite generations there will exist infinite types, hence the EOp policy should aim to maximise the average welfare of the worst group that will ever exist. We show that while if date of birth is a circumstance, income inequality reaches high levels in the long run, inequality cannot increase when date of birth is a circumstance.

The Well-Being of Musicians in the United States

Ying Zhen
Wesleyan College


* This report was prepared by Professor Alan B. Krueger of Princeton University and Professor Ying Zhen of Wesleyan College, with the able assistance of James Reeves. The survey was implemented by the Princeton University Survey Research Center, under the direction of Ed Freeland. We appreciate the cooperation of MusiCares in partnering with us to recruit many of the musicians who completed the MIRA survey.

To further our understanding of the music industry, the Music Industry Research Association (MIRA) and the Princeton University Survey Research Center, in partnership with MusiCares, conducted a survey of 1,227 musicians in the U.S. in 2018. This report summarizes key findings, highlighting the challenges and opportunities that musicians face.

Abstract: The average American musician earns income from 3.5 music-related activities per year. The most common income source is live performances, followed by music lessons and performing in a church choir or other religious service. Women make up about one third of musicians, and report experiencing high rates of discrimination and sexual harassment. Seventy-two percent of female musicians report that they have been discriminated against because of their sex, and 67 percent report that they have been the victim of sexual harassment; corresponding figures for U.S. women more generally are 28 percent and 42 percent, respectively. Sixty-three percent of Non-white musicians said they faced racial discrimination, as compared to 36 percent of Non-white self-employed workers nationwide. Many musicians struggle with mental health problems. Half of musicians reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless at least several days in the last two weeks, compared with less than a quarter of the adult population as a whole. The incidence of substance abuse is substantially higher among musicians than the general public. Compared to the general U.S. adult population, musicians are five times more likely to have used cocaine in the last month, 6.5 times more likely to have used ecstasy, 13.5 times more likely to have used LSD, 2.8 times more likely to have used heroin or opium, and 3.5 times more likely to have used meth. Musicians are about twice as likely to drink alcohol frequently (four or more times per week) than the population as a whole: 31 percent versus 16 percent.

Keywords: Musicians, Well-being, discrimination

Racism and Economic Policy: Recent Trends

Paolo Ramazzotti
University of Macerata


Since the path-breaking work by Myrdal on the American case, a great deal of inquiry takes racism for granted, mostly focusing on its dynamics, its effects and on how it relates to a stratified or class economy. This paper discusses how racism is an emerging phenomenon in Italy as well as in other countries. It does not deny that racism already existed in these countries but it stresses that its recent relevance is a qualitative change determined by neoliberal policies. The paper initially outlines how neoliberal policies aimed to re-establish a price-centered coordination of the economy, thereby reducing the action of collective agents like the state, the unions, etc. It points out the main consequences of this action: cuts in welfare state expenses, a reduced social mobility and an unequal distribution of income and wealth. The paper subsequently discusses racism as a socio-cultural implication of this change. It argues that, faced with the cognitive dissonance generated by social and economic uncertainty, people sought an account of their uneasiness in circumstances that were not strictly economic. They pursued new social identities, based less on their social standing than on what distinguished them from new underdogs. In this perspective, racism does not merely reflect ignorance or a battle of the have-nots determined by uncontrolled immigration. Rather, it is a dramatic consequence of neoliberalism, which dramatically feeds back on social deterioration and neoliberal consensus.

The Growing Trends of Human Rights Research in EconLit-Indexed Journals from 1972-2018

Chris Jeffords
Indiana University of Pennsylvania


From 1972-2018, searching the term “human rights” in EconLit academic journals generates as many as 131 unique search hits (2016) and, at a minimum, zero hits (1973-1974, 1976-1977, and 1984-1987). With respect to average search hits on the same term, interesting trends emerge over three distinct, approximately 15-year periods: (1) 1.06 from 1972-1987; (2) 19.41 from 1988 to 2004; and (3) 99.64 from 2005 to 2018. Cumulatively, the term “human rights” reached 1,742 hits in 2018, growing at an average annual rate of approximately 19.7%. Searching the terms “economic rights,” “environmental rights,” and “women’s rights” yields fewer hits, with “environmental rights” peaking at 3 articles in 2011 and 26 cumulatively by the end of 2018. Over the same time period, the number of journals indexed in EconLit has grown from 224 in 1972 to 1,921 in 2018, while the number of articles indexed in 1972 was 6,127 compared to a peak of 61,920 in 2014. Based on these data, this paper addresses the following questions: (1) is the economics profession expanding its vision to encompass broader human rights concerns or is its vision obscured; (2) in hindsight, what can we learn about the trends in and distribution of topics covered in rights-based articles; and (3) how can the broader economics profession better engage topics in human rights?
JEL Classifications
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches