Watson Institute at Brown University
Stone Inequality Initiative

About the Initiative

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. 

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.

Director's Message

Welcome to the James and Catherine Stone Initiative on Inequality at Brown University’s Institute for International and Public Affairs. This initiative brings together the Brown Community–as students, teachers, and scholars–for an urgent conversation about the inequality. Our emphasis 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? And–perhaps the most vital question–how do Gilded Ages end? 

To begin to answer these questions we have launched a set of activities to support research and teaching on these topics. These include:

  • an interdisciplinary faculty seminar that meets once a month to share research and teaching related to inequality and to engage with invited speakers. 

  • Public programming that features the authors of recent books that examine inequality from distinctive perspectives

  • Research grants for students interested in launching projects that examine inequality from diverse perspectives. See the call for proposals on the homepage of our website.

  •  A website that will serve as a node for research and teaching resources that offer wide-lens perspectives on American inequality. To that end, our website features a syllabi bank that collects syllabi focused on different dimensions of inequality including the history of capitalism, wealth and poverty in cities; and the political economy of hard policy problems including taxing the rich.  We are developing a bibliography of research on the political, social and cultural impacts of inequality as well as an occasional blog that comments on inequality in the news.

Jim Morone and Margaret Weir