Watson Institute at Brown University
Stone Inequality Initiative

About the Initiative


The Stone Initiative on Inequality calls together the Brown Community –as students, teachers, and scholars -- for an urgent conversation about inequality in the United States. Our focus is on how great wealth distorts –perhaps even threatens-- the republic. The work of the initiative centers on three questions: What does inequality look like today? More important, what does terrific wealth do to the United States – how does it affect our politics, our society, our culture, our sense of public interest and shared fate? How does it interact with longstanding racial and gender inequalities? And –perhaps the most vital question-- how do Gilded Ages end? 

Our aim is to provoke what Brown University does so well. Gather students and faculty from across the campus for a multidisciplinary conversation – energized by a desire to understand and address what may be the greatest problem of our time.


Over the past four decades, the United States has become the most unequal nation among rich countries, especially when it comes to the income of the top 1 percent. Since 1980, their share of the national income shot up by 10 percentage points, five times as much as in Western Europe.  The rise of great wealth has transformed not only the American economy, it has refashioned American society, politics, and culture. The Stone Initiative investigates the ways that this inequality has ramified through these different domains of American life, transforming people, places, and institutions.   

Through multi-disciplinary inquiry and a set of linked activities, we aim to provoke new thinking about what inequality looks like, how America has changed as it has become more unequal, and how our new gilded age might ultimately come to an end.