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Social Inequalities - SPY00008I

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Zoe Irving
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

This module examines the nature and operation of social inequalities in contemporary societies, how they are experienced, measured and explained and the policies that are developed to tackle them. Students will examine social divisions of race, gender, class and other dimensions of inequality and analyse the ways in which these intersect with citizenship and welfare in differing life stages and contexts. The module approaches these issues from a policy perspective, exploring how they are framed and addressed in policy debate and policy practice. Students will acquire skills to critically analyse the ways in which social advantage and disadvantage is shaped, and to investigate contemporary inequalities using a range of empirical sources in international context.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23 to Summer Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are to:


  • Develop critical awareness of the range of contexts in which inequalities operate and their social, political, economic and institutional drivers 

  • Familiarise students with the conceptual and theoretical tools to analyse and explain the nature, intersection, operation and outcomes of inequalities in contemporary societies. 

  • Enable understanding of the origins of policy responses to tackle inequality and to evaluate their success in practice

  • Acquaint students with empirical data sources and the ways in which they can be used to inform understanding of inequalities in national and international context

Module learning outcomes

At the end of this module students will be able to:


  • Utilise key concepts and theories in the analysis and explanation of social inequalities 

  • Understand the ways in which social, political, economic and institutional interests shape social advantage and disadvantage 

  • Critically appreciate the societal effects of social inequalities with an awareness of their intersection and the differential impact of policies on social groups

  • Investigate inequalities in differing contexts and life stages, assess empirical evidence and produce reasoned accounts of social policy enquiry 

  • Critically evaluate the aims, operation and outcomes of policies designed to tackle social inequalities 

  • Communicate knowledge and ideas effectively using a range of written and data presentation techniques 

Module content

Part I

Concepts and Themes 

  1. Inequality and why it matters

  2. Citizenship and Human Rights

  3. Social class, social mobility and social policy 

  4. Gender divisions of care and work 

  5. Race and racism 

  6. Explaining Inequality – The global context

  7. Explaining Inequality – Basic needs, human development and the capability approach

  8. Explaining Inequality – Social structure

  9. Explaining Inequality – Intersectionality


Part II

Inequalities in policy context

1.   Poverty

2.   Wealth

3.   Children and families

4.   Work and the Labour Market

5.   Age and Ageing

6.   Disabling environments

7.   Discrimination, Institutional exclusion and the equality agenda

8.   Citizenship and migration

9.   Inequality in the global policy context


Part III

Measuring inequality and its consequences

  1. Measures of income inequality

  2. Measuring other inequalities

  3. Measuring the consequences of inequality    

  4. Do more equal countries have better outcomes?


Task Length % of module mark
Coursework - extensions not feasible/practicable
N/A 30
Take-home data interpretation project
N/A 30
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
SPY0000I8 Social Inequalities
6 hours 40

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will be required to achieve an overall average mark of 40 across the three components of assessment in order to pass the module. Students who do not achieve an overall mark of at least 40 will be required to be reassessed in the components in which they have a mark of less than 40. 


Task Length % of module mark
Coursework - extensions not feasible/practicable
N/A 30
Take-home data interpretation project
N/A 30
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
SPY0000I8 Social Inequalities
6 hours 40

Module feedback

Students will receive written feedback on their assessed submissions in line with the University standards of feedback turnaround. 

Feedback will be returned using the standard Department marking matrix and feedback sheet. 

Indicative reading

Atkinson, A.  (2015) Inequality, What can be done? Harvard University Press

Byrne, B., Alexander, C., Khan, O., Nazroo, J. and Shankley, W. (2020) Ethnicity, Race and Inequality in the UK, State of the Nation, Bristol, Policy Press

Dean, H. and Platt, L. (eds) (2016) Social Advantage and Social Disadvantage, Oxford, Oxford University Press

Dorling, D. (2017) Peak Inequality, Britain’s ticking timebomb, Bristol, Policy Press

Evans, M. (2017) The persistence of gender inequality, Cambridge, Polity

Payne, G. and Harrison, E. (2020) Social Divisions: Inequality and Diversity in Britain, Bristol, Policy Press

Platt, L. (2021) Inequality, Cambridge, Polity 

Williams, F. (1989) Social Policy, A critical introduction – Issues of race, gender and class, Cambridge, Polity 

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.