Over the last few decades, disparities in income, wealth, and mobility have widened in the United States, but the U.S. fares worse in wealth inequality than income inequality. Wealth, in particular, is crucial to many functions across the life course and between generations, including but not limited to: spending on healthcare and education, acquiring and retaining investments for profit, weathering unexpected expenses or shocks, ascribing social status, and transferring assets to children and/or other family members. The single-family suburban home is the cornerstone of average household wealth and a symbol of the American Dream, but who has wealth in the U.S. is heavily impacted by historical and systematic inequality.
This seminar brings a sociological and policy lens to the discourse on wealth inequality. The course begins with the following questions: What is wealth? What kind of assets make up one’s wealth? Why does wealth matter? We delve into the history and wealth trends in the United States before focusing on the intersection of the following themes and wealth: home ownership, migration, entrepreneurship, and banking.