Looking forward to: The Many Facets of Social Inequality

Apr 22, 2024 | IAS Major Project, Issue 12, Looking Forward to...., Projects, Transformations

Image courtesy of Joel Muniz on Unsplash

The Many Facets of Social Inequality
Dr Mauro Bambi (Department of Economics) and Dr Alpár Mészáros (Department of Mathematical Sciences)

In our daily lives, we engage in continuous strategic interactions with others to achieve common goals or compete with one another. In situations that involve a vast number of agents, often in the millions or billions, the impact of any individual agent is negligible when compared to the entire population. Rather than attempting to track the actions of each agent, it becomes then more practical to study the evolution of the density or distribution of these agents. This can be done using mean field games (MFGs) and partial differential equations (PDEs).

Based on these mathematical tools, our IAS major project ‘The Many Facets of Social Inequality’ aims to investigate the evolution of the distribution of income and wealth within a society. While models of this nature were initially introduced in the 1990s, they have been recently revisited from the perspective of MFGs by Achdou et al. in 2022. Their fresh perspective has yielded intriguing insights and opened many research questions.

The project commences in Epiphany 2025, and its objectives reflect our collaboration with colleagues from all four faculties at Durham University. We intend to delve into the underlying drivers of social inequality, incorporating novel elements into these models including behavioural factors, trust dynamics, and the impact of ‘big shocks’, such as the recent pandemic.

Our aspiration is to shed new light on the complexities of these critical questions thanks to mathematical tools and the richness coming from our interdisciplinary approach. We have been delighted to publish an introductory overview of the project at Durham University’s newsfeed, and please see more at Decoding Inequality – Durham University.


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