The 1st Summer School on Socioeconomic Inequality was hosted at the University of Chicago from July 9-15, 2012 under the direction of Steven N. Durlauf and James J. Heckman.  The program brought together 37 doctoral students from across the globe to spend a week in Chicago with the goal of providing exposure to a multidimensional approach to the study of inequality and human flourishing. During this intense week, students attended lectures, engaged in discussions with faculty, presented their research, and received feedback from faculty and their peers.  Students were selected from a diverse, competitive applicant pool and represented many disciplines including economics, social thought, social work, sociology, and public policy. Thanks to Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group funded by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, residence hall lodging and community meals were arranged to provide students more opportunities to discuss their work and the relationships among their research areas.  

Professors James Heckman and Steven Durlauf designed a program that brought together a diverse faculty from the fields of economics, finance, statistics, and epidemiology to give lectures and discuss research with students at organized dinners, poster sessions, and office hours.  The 2012 lecturers and topics included those listed below.

Students reported that their experience at the Summer School inspired them to collaborate with researchers at different universities and from other disciplines. They came away with new ways of thinking about economic problems and new tools for multidimensional analysis.  Outside of the lecture hall, students interacted with students in different stages of the work who were raised or have studied in different countries, yet shared an interest in socioeconomic inequality.  Many emphasized their appreciation that the organizers and lecturers were attentive and approachable.  Here are a few of their remarks in their own words:

"SSSI changed my perspective by providing a panoramic view of the different ways in which inequality matters and the most promising approaches in this area of research."

- Martin Fiszbein, Economics, Brown University

“As a sociologist, it was an incredible experience to get exposure, in person, to the lecturers. I think many of the ideas presented here can be found in anthropological and sociological literature, but sometimes without the formalization or underlying model. Seeing the links between empirics and models was quite fascinating. It also seems to me that inequality research is a huge missed opportunity for collaboration among different disciplines.”

– Erin Lentz, Sociology, Cornell University

“For me SSSI ’12 set irreversibly higher the standards for academic rigor and work ethic.  The school provided a very stimulating environment, which greatly helped me shape my research agenda.”

– Anton Badev, Economics, University of Pennsylvania

“I felt like I had found my people, and I loved learning about so many different projects at the poster sessions and how others are thinking about and approaching inequality.  The feedback I received on my own work was invaluable, and I’m grateful for the chance I had to present.  The whole summer school was so well thought out and organized, and the people who were there, both lecturers and students, were superb.  I loved it.”                                                                                                              

– Mary Cox, Economic and Social History, Oxford University