III Research Themes


Message from III Director,  Professor Francisco H. G. Ferreira

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"The Institute is active in three main areas: research; teaching; and public engagement. Our research is broadly organized into six main themes, and one cross-cutting observatory. The six themes are Wealth, Elites and Tax Justice; Cities, Jobs and Economic Change; Global Economies of Care; the Politics of Inequality; the Public Economics of Inequality; and Opportunity, Mobility and the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality. In keeping with our philosophy, these themes are led by LSE academics and involve sometimes large research teams, based at the III as well as across the School and beyond."

Full Director's welcome 

Research Themes 

Wealth, Elites and Tax Justice

This research theme will run from 2019 to 2023 with five different research clusters.

This theme will draw on the expertise of numerous LSE academics from different Departments, and from our international partners, including those in the global south. We have especially strong relationships in Africa with the African Centre for Excellence in Inequality Research, led by Murray Leibbrandt at UCT, and the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies at University of Witwatersrand which has a specific project on Intergenerational Wealth and Taxation. In South America we work closely the Chilean Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (COES) who have a programme of research.

1. Measuring and conceptualising wealth inequality, including trends over time 

2. Global financial capitalism: offshore wealth and tax havens

3. Wealth and social mobility: meritocracy and the legitimation of inequality

4. Developing comparative studies of plutocratic elites

5. Overarching policy theme: tax justice

 Find out more about the theme here.

Cities, Jobs and Economic Change

This research theme will run from 2019 to 2022.

The information technology revolution has led to huge changes in society, reshaping social relationships, the type of work we do, and patterns of consumption. Many countries have seen a decline in mid-skill, mid-wage jobs, with polarisation between high skill, high pay employment and low skill, low pay (and often precarious) work. There is often an increasing divide between the experiences and prospects of those who enter the labour market as university graduates and those who do not.

One striking feature of economic change has been its tendency to concentrate economic prosperity in selected locations. In high income countries the loss of industrial employment has been a feature of all major cities and towns, but the knowledge-based service economy has flourished in only a small number of these places. Other once-thriving urban areas are ‘left behind’, struggling to replace their historical economic purpose. As concentrations of skilled workers and high-wage industries in prosperous cities increasingly become the driver of national economic prosperity, geographic divides in education, employment opportunities, political attitudes and cultural values have been thrown into sharp relief. Discontent with this uneven geography of opportunity is manifest in the rise of populist politics across Europe and the United States, challenging the stability of democratic societies.

Our research theme ties together LSE academics who are interested in developing an internationally comparative, cross-disciplinary and multidimensional approach to these issues. Other strands will investigate the institutional responses to technological change, such as the failure of education systems to meet the increased demand for high skilled labour and sub-optimal investment in research and development. We will engage quantitative and qualitative researchers to understand both broad economic processes and everyday lived experiences.   

Find out more about the theme here

Global Economies of Care

This research theme will run from April 2019 to September 2022.

The inequalities problem this theme addresses is the global crisis in care. Without care the global economy could not function, yet care is rarely recognised as a key economic driver of value. Without care, workers would not be born, fed, educated and replenished. But care is not just a labour issue, not just caring for but also caring about. Care is about how we relate to others, the fundamental social relations that underpin our lives and survival. Caring is also intimately connected to the politics we get. We are currently experiencing a cruel, brutal age where children can be ripped from their mothers and caged. The care theme will examine different scales, spaces and experiences of care. From the increased financialisation of care provision by national states, to the increasing privatisations of welfare states, to distributions of care worker across the globe as a result of structural adjustment policies, to the conditions for formal and informal care, to family structures and moral duties. Care is the crisis of our times and this theme will insist that we pay close attention to its significance.

The theme involves LSE colleagues from the Departments of International Development, Law, Anthropology, Gender Studies and Social Policy.  

Find out more about the theme here

Politics of Inequality

The Politics of Inequality theme, which had its formal launch in January 2021, explores the practices of resistance, mobilisation, and contestation which constitute a politics of inequalities from a bottom-up perspective.  Research within this theme will have an international and comparative focus, and it will adopt an intersectional lens, in order to explore collective action and everyday resistance against a wide range of social, cultural, economic and political inequalities.

This theme draws together the expertise of LSE academics from different Departments and is committed to a cross-disciplinary approach.  We also aim to work with international partners, including those in the global south. The theme will support research collaborations, funding bids, as well as knowledge exchange activities.

This theme is linked to the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity (AFSEE) programme, which is based in the International Inequalities Institute (III).   Given that the AFSEE programme is committed to building a community of people who are “committed to using collective leadership to work towards social and economic justice for all”, it is intended that research within this theme will inform the teaching on AFSEE modules, the AFSEE Fellows’ projects and MSc dissertations, and that it will seek to engage with and to include the expertise of Fellows.

Find out more about the theme here

The Public Economics of Inequality

This new research theme - The Public Economics of Inequality - aims to bring the classic approach in Public Economics and its most recent advances to the study of inequality. This approach will be tested and embedded in the interdisciplinary environment that the III provides. The research theme will be organised around three central themes in Public Economics.

The first theme is the measurement of the relevant dimensions of inequality, following the spirit of the late Sir Tony Atkinson. Our research will focus on new data opportunities and methodological advances to go beyond the measurement of income and wealth inequality and provide a more comprehensive account of the distribution of welfare. This includes the measurement of consumption, un-reported income and wealth, and health outcomes and wellbeing.

The second theme is to provide a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying inequality. Starting from the measurement of different dimensions of inequality, we hope to uncover the underlying mechanisms, ranging from economic forces to behavioural biases, and from gender frictions to intrahousehold insurance.

The final theme is to support the design of policy to tackle inequality more effectively. This research theme builds on a rich tradition in public economics to develop general frameworks and common methodologies, tightly integrating theory and empirics, intended to inform and improve policy design. 

This theme draws together the expertise of LSE academics from different Departments and will be promoted by the Public Economics group at STICERD in the Department of Economics. The theme will support research collaborations as well as knowledge exchange activities.

Find out more about the theme here

Opportunity, Mobility and the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality

The aim of this new research theme at the III is to foster an exchange of ideas and findings among scholars working on horizontal inequalities and intergenerational transmission of well-being from different perspectives and in different disciplines.

Not all inequalities are the same. Philosophers, religious leaders, politicians, policymakers and – most importantly – people at large seem to find some forms of inequality more morally repugnant than others. There is a widely held view, for example, that inequalities due to factors beyond a person’s control – such as race, biological sex, place of birth or family background – are normatively unacceptable.  There is some evidence that they may also hinder society from prospering economically. Many feel that society should seek to redress and, if possible, eliminate such inequalities, also known collectively as inequality of opportunity (and closely related to the concepts of horizontal inequalities and intersectionality).  

Because many critical factors that shape people’s wellbeing independently of their own choices are inherited from one’s family, genetically or otherwise, the study of inequality of opportunity is also closely related to that ofthe intergenerational transmission of outcomes such as income, education and health. That transmission is, of course, the converse of intergenerational mobility. In fact, we argue that inequality of opportunity provides a natural link between inequality of outcomes and intergenerational transmission (immobility): when opportunities for today’s children are very unequal, their lives as adults are bound to be very different. That inequality is then transmitted to the next generation as a new round of unequal life chances. And so the cycle of inequality persistence sustains itself.

Find out more about the theme here

Global Inequalities Observatory

The Global Inequalities Observatory (GIO), soon to be launched as a cross-cutting program within the International Inequalities Institute, aims to monitor the evolution of income and wealth inequality around the world. Headed by Professor Stephen Jenkins - working with Professor Francisco H.G. Ferreira (III Director) - the Observatory seeks to promote rigorous research methods from a wide range of social sciences, so as to foster a greater understanding of the levels, trends, causes, and consequences of economic inequality in multiple countries and regions.

Find out more about the GIO here


Research Programmes in Partnership

Latin American and Caribbean Inequality Review (LACIR)

LACIR brings together high-level scholars to provide a coherent and comprehensive overview of the inequality problem in Latin America, through a mix of in-depth critical reviews of the literature, new data, and new analyses. The  Review will go beyond a description of the region’s high inequality levels and seek an understanding of why despite major structural economic and social change, Latin America’s inequality exceptionalism has persisted for probably the last 70 years.

The Review is independently overseen by a Panel of researchers led by Orazio Attanasio, Francisco Ferreira, Sonya Krutikova and Julian Messina. It is co-hosted and co-sponsored by the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics; the Inter-American Development Bank; the Institute for Fiscal Studies; and Yale University. 

Watch the launch event

Go to LACIR website for more information

Ecosystems For Futuristic Entrepreneurship through Collaboration and Technology (EFFECT)

EFFECT explores opportunities and challenges for furthering knowledge economies in India and the UK, through partnerships that enable ecosystems for entrepreneurship. The project aims to enhance mutual economic prosperity, human capital development and social welfare. Using a systematic multi-disciplinary approach, the project focuses particularly on ecosystems for technology-based entrepreneurship including in financial services and FinTech.

The project is a collaboration between the London School of Economics and the Indian Institute of Technology, India, with partners from Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, and Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, India.

Read more about the project here

III & Marshall Institute Research Programme

Art, inequality and social change|
Supported by the LSE Marshall Institute

This three-month project will consider the challenges to the art world, including public and private galleries, and museums, posed by intensifying social and economic inequalities. Contemporary art practices have sought to democratise artistic display over the past two decades, to limit the association with 'highbrow' culture to encourage diversity in artistic form, and to encourage a wider range of audiences to engage with art.

However, although democratising moves have been effective in several respects, there has been less attention to the way that the rise of the super-rich and the accumulation of wealth and capital might be an issue for artistic exploration and curation. Indeed, there is evidence that the contemporary art market is in fact dominated by the investment potential of art works for the super-rich, and hence becomes hooked into the arena of super-rich cultures which may affect the capacity of art to act as a critical public good. This is a matter of great public concern, especially as it could be associated with the renewal of cultural elitism to go alongside growing economic inequality.

To address this issue, the project will explore how the practices of curators and artists in a series of leading London galleries are aware of these challenges, and to bring to light their repertoires for relating to the challenge of accumulating inequality. A series of interviews will be conducted with curators of public and private art galleries, as well as with a number of artists exploring current social issues. This pilot project will take an important initial step which will prepare the way for a larger project, whilst also performing a much needed function in its own right.

Research Team

Professor Nicola Lacey

Kristina Kolbe

Professor Mike Savage


Populism, Inequality and Institutions
Teams from LSE, CReAM and SOFI 

By contrast to the politically-dominant view that populism is primarily a consequence of immigration, Populism, Inequality and Institutions (PII) investigates the argument that the underlying driver is lifetime shifts in economic inequality, caused by on-going economic transformation through technological change and import competition. The fundamental hypotheses are that the underlying dynamics of long-term economic structural transformation display similar patterns of change across advanced European countries. However, the pattern of populist attitudes may differ across countries, depending on how such long-term change can be mediated through institutions, education, retraining and upgrading; and how the effect of populist attitudes on politics is magnified via the configuration of electoral and party institutions. The researchers address these hypotheses in comparative analysis combining theory with unique administrative and life-course data, combining insights from economics and political science. Research examining these hypotheses should have a major impact on rethinking education and training strategies and on how labour markets work.

Teams and affiliations 

Professor David Soskice is leading the LSE team, Professor Uta Schönberg leads the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), UCL team and Professor  Anders Björklun  leads the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI), Stockholm University team. 

Read more about the project here

UK LIS Satellite Office

The UK LIS Satellite Office at the International Inequalities Institute (III) is located at London School of Economic (LSE) and coordinated by Dr. Nora Waitkus. The satellite office was launched in November 2021 to promote the usage of the LIS Databases in the UK and elsewhere, and to serve as the reference point for the liaison between LIS and the community of LIS data users in the UK. 

Read more about the UK LIS Satellite Office here

Past Research

III & Joseph Rowntree Foundation Research Programme

Improving the Evidence Base for Understanding the Links between Inequalities and Poverty
Partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

This research aims to review the relationship between inequalities of various kinds and poverty. It will investigate areas such as the consequences of living in an unequal society for the lives of those in poverty; how people's prospects of social mobility are affected if parental resources are unequally distributed between families; the links between poverty, inequality and geographical and neighbourhood segregation; how inequality affects risks of poverty for different groups, such as by ethnicity, gender, disability and migration status; and the political and attitudinal effects of inequality for support (or otherwise) for effective collective action against poverty. 

Find out more about the programme here

III & Sutton Trust Research Programme

Pulling Away? A social analysis of economic ‘elites’ in the UK
Supported by the Sutton Trust

This project will investigate whether British elites are pulling ahead, not just economically but also socially.  Economic research has demonstrated that the richest 1 per cent in terms of income in the UK have increased their relative advantage since the 1980s but we know less about whether their social mobility and self-identities are becoming more exclusive and hence whether there is a more general process of ‘elites pulling away’

Research Team

Dr Sam Friedman 

Dr Katharina Hecht (Researcher)

Professor Mike Savage

III & IGA-Rockefeller Research Programme

Challenging urban decline narratives: enhancing community resilience
Supported by the LSE Institute for Global Affairs and the Rockefeller Foundation

The III has been awarded funding for the project "Challenging urban decline narratives: enhancing community resilience" through the IGA's "Research and Impact Seed Fund", supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. The goal of this project is to develop an innovative synthesis of both political economy and narrative approaches to resilience, and to use this to understand different urban areas in England. 

Read more about the project here

Research Innovation Fund projects

Since 2015, the III has been delighted to run competitions for LSE-based projects which would benefit from pump-priming support, and lead to larger externally funded projects in the future or other increased research activity in the School. Members of all departments and research centres are eligible to apply for these; we hope to hold a further competition in 2017. Those receiving support will be presenting their findings in future III seminars and/or in our working paper series.

Seven projects were successful and received funding in round one in 2015, for research taking place in the 2015-16 academic year (in some cases extending to 2016-17). Another seven projects received funding in round two (2016-17 academic year), as have seven additional projects in round three (2017-18 academic year).

Read about the different research projects here

Ethnographic exploration of the socio-economic transformation of the Basque country

A collaboration with the Agirre Lehendakaria (ALC) at the Basque University

The III is collaborating with the ALC at the Basque University to carry out ethnographic interviews and contribute to the drafting of a report on the Basque case of socio-economic transformation.

Since the 1970s, the region has followed a very different development pattern compared to the rest of Europe, transforming from an impoverished area into a vibrant, successful region by embarking upon policies that privileged cooperative decison-making, community development, and crucially, large scale cooperatives and social enterprises. The motivation of this project is to understand the values, narratives and strategic decisions that have been taken in the Basque area by public and private institutions to build a socio-economic model that presents positive equality indicators combined with a competitive economy.

Research Team

Dr Luna Glucksberg 

Professor Mike Savage