Center for Wealth and Inequality


Social and economic inequality remains a contentious issue in the United States and in other western countries. Considerations of inequality spill over to related concerns: social justice, public responsibility, government versus private remedies for social problems. In Western countries debates about inequality are not focused on whether inequality is desirable, but on how much is acceptable, on how the degree of inequality should be managed, and on provisions to be made for the less fortunate, and for their children.

The Center for the Study of Wealth and Inequality (CWI) takes as its mission the investigation of income and wealth, along with exploring the dimensions of societal inequality in these household resources. The Center's interests encompass issues of poverty, labor market behavior, public transfer programs and tax policy, in that each has a clear relevance to economic inequality, family resources, and to living standards.

The theme of wealth is given prominence in the name of the Center because the distribution of asset holdings is a matter of growing importance in American society. Through homeownership, private pension plans, and stock market investments, a considerable proportion of the American population has acquired sizeable holdings of wealth assets. These assets contribute to living standards, provide families with consumable resources in times of economic downturn, and constitute the principle vehicle by which advantage and inequality are replicated across generations. The Center will focus on issues relating to the buildup and distribution of wealth holdings, generational financial linkages and the transmission of wealth, and governmental policy on these matters, as articulated in the tax code and in various public programs. The Center will encourage research on these topics in the United States, as well as comparative studies in collaboration with foreign scholars.

The Center will serve as a focus of research and discussion at Columbia on topics relating to its enumerated themes. Through meetings, luncheons and other activities, the Center will bring together faculty and graduate students so that they can become acquainted with the research undertakings of one another, with the intention of stimulating the development of collaborative projects. The Center will also bring to campus leading researchers on aspects of inequality, both for public lectures and to participate in agenda setting discussions with interested faculty.


Thomas DiPrete and Seymour Spilerman, Co-Directors


Working Papers

Research Projects of Center Faculty

(including faculty collaborators)

Cohen: Sources of Income among Israeli Workers. Supported by the Van Leer Institute (in collaboration with Tali Kristal and Guy Mundlak).

Cohen: Labor Market Integration: Aussiedler and Jewish Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in Germany and Israel. Supported by the German-Israeli Foundation (in collaboration with Frank Kalter, Irena Kogan and Yitchak Haberfeld).

Cohen: Intragenerational Income Mobility in Israel (in collaboration with Yitchak Haberfeld).

DiPrete: Design and Analysis of "How Many X's Do You Know" Surveys for the Study of Polarization in Social Networks. Supported by the National Science Foundation (in collaboration with Andrew Gelman, Tian Zheng, and Julien Teitler)

DiPrete: Teacher Effects on Academic and Social Outcomes in Elementary School. Supported by the Spencer Foundation.

DiPrete: 2006-2008. Teacher Effects and Gender Differences in Social Development during Elementary School. Supported by the American Educational Research Association.

DiPrete: Labor Demand, Organizational Power, and Status Processes: What Explains Compensation Trends in Executive Occupations? Supported by the National Science Foundation.

DiPrete. The Gender Gap in the Educational Attainment of African Americans (in collaboration with Claudia Buchmann).

Spilerman: Institutional Structures and Asset Development Strategies in Chile and Israel. Supported by the Ford Foundation (in collaboration with Florencia Torche)

Spilerman: Construction of Measures of Wealth and Income from Asset Information in Household Surveys. (in collaboration with Matthew Wei-Poi and Florencia Torche).

Spilerman: Organizational Adaptations to Living with the Threat of Terrorism: The Experience of Israel. (in collaboration with Guy Stecklov, Hebrew University).

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