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Social Inequalities - SPY00039I

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Alison Wallace
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

Is rising inequality the defining characteristic of the twenty-first century so far? Is social inequality problematic even for those who are socially advantaged? What role does social policy play in reducing or deepening social inequalities? These questions are central to your study on this module. You will explore the relationship between social policy and social inequalities, the patterns of distribution of resources and life chances and how these are reflected in societal outcomes. You will develop your knowledge and understanding of the distributive goals of social policy and examine the ways in which redistribution is facilitated or not through policy in practice. By examining the ways in which inequalities are conceptualised, measured and explained you will consider alternative policy possibilities for achieving redistributive justice in the fields of social protection, employment and taxation. Acquiring skills to critically analyse the ways in which social advantage and disadvantage is shaped, you will investigate contemporary inequalities and make your own comparisons using a range of international data sources.


  • To develop critical awareness of the relationship between inequalities and social policy patterns of resource distribution and their explanation

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

  • To 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

  • To develop skills in the use of data to test theoretical positions on the societal outcomes of inequalities

Module learning outcomes

On completing this module you will be able to :

  • Utilise key concepts and theories in the analysis, evaluation and explanation of social inequalities and their policy context

  • Identify and critically assess the ways in which different approaches to the understanding of social inequalities influences policy development

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

  • Evaluate and deploy different conceptualisations and measurements of inequalities in the UK and comparative context

  • Communicate knowledge and ideas effectively using written and data presentation techniques


Task Length % of module mark
Data interpretation exercise
N/A 40
Policy blogs (portfolio)
N/A 60

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Data interpretation exercise
N/A 40
Final Essay
N/A 60

Module feedback

Feedback will be given in accordance with the University Policy on feedback in the Guide to Assessment as well as in line with the School policy.

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. (2022) Inequality, 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.