49 minutes | Jan 30th 2020

Inequality in the US and Europe (with Michèle Lamont, Peter A. Hall, and Paul Pierson)

Despite the decline in global poverty rates over the past five or six decades, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow ever wider, especially in the industrialized West. Three scholars—Michèle Lamont, Peter A. Hall, and Paul Pierson—discuss how housing and education can actually reinforce inequality, and who in our society is seen as “deserving” of getting help, or not, and how that has changed over time.

Paul Pierson has studied “superstar cities,” such as San Francisco and New York, that have become places that concentrate wealth and opportunities for advancement but have exorbitant housing costs. He compares those cities to Paris or London, which have a different policy landscape for affordable housing. Peter Hall describes how middle and upper income families in the US hoard opportunities for their children, a process that actually begins in preschool. And he offers a method for making university admissions more equitable. Michèle Lamont describes the power of institutional or state narratives in shaping the collective understanding of who’s welcome and deserving of support.

Our guests represent three different disciplines—sociology, government, and political science—and they collaborated with other contributors for a special edition of the journal Dædalus, published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This special issue focuses on various systems of inequality in the US and Europe with insightful historical and comparative context.

Lamont, Hall, and Pierson are all former directors of the Successful Societies Program at CIFAR, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, which studies the ways in which healthy societies work. Each is a current or former affiliate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, where this podcast was produced.

Host:

Kathleen Molony, Director, Weatherhead Scholars Program.

Guests:

Michèle Lamont, Weatherhead Center Director and Faculty Associate (on leave 2019–2020). Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies; Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies, Departments of Sociology and African and African American Studies, Harvard University.

Peter A. Hall, Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate. Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies, Department of Government, Harvard University.

Paul Pierson, John Gross Professor of Political Science, University of California at Berkeley.

Related Links: Follow the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs: