How Should We Measure Multidimensional Inequality? A Philosopher’s Approach (with COVID applications)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm EDT

We are pleased to invite you to a new webinar series, “Facing Inequality”, hosted by the Institute for International Economic Policy. This virtual series will focus on current and emerging inequality issues in the U.S. and around the globe. The series will bring attention to aspects of inequality being made increasingly relevant by the current COVID-19 pandemic and associated crises. The series is organized under the stewardship of IIEP Director James Foster, Oliver T. Carr, Jr. Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Economics, and IIEP Faculty Affiliate Trevor Jackson, Assistant Professor of History. The series is co-sponsored by the GW Interdisciplinary Inequality Series, co-organized by Prof. Jackson from the Department of History and Prof. Bryan Stuart from the Department of Economics.

The fifth event, “How Should We Measure Multidimensional Inequality? A Philosopher’s Approach (with COVID applications)” will feature Dr. Kristi Olson of Bowdoin College. The discussion will focus on the following: When we measure multidimensional inequality, we must decide how much weight to give each dimension. The simple approach—giving each dimension equal weight—is almost certainly wrong, but what are the alternatives? This paper critiques some of the familiar approaches: subjective utility and the envy test. It then introduces a new approach. We take as the equal baseline those bundles that could be cooperatively distributed if everyone were free to choose from among all bundles. Using these bundles as the baseline, we can measure the extent of deviation from equality. The approach can be used to evaluate inequalities in, for example, the distribution of COVID risk and income.


About the Speakers:

Kristi Olson

Kristi A. Olson is an assistant professor of philosophy at Bowdoin College where she works on issues of distributive justice. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University under the supervision of Thomas Scanlon, Frances Kamm, and Amartya Sen. Her research has been published in such journals as Philosophy & Public Affairs, the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, and Politics, Philosophy & Economics. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D., she worked as a public interest lawyer.


Luis Felipe López-Calva, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, United Nations Development Programme
Jeffrey Brand, Associate Professor of Philosophy, the George Washington University

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