Are Americans Primarily Suffering from Income Inequality or Lack of Opportunity? Diagnosing the Problem and Proposing Solutions

Friday, May 3, 2019
7:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m

While class divisions in America have been a source of concern for decades, attention to this topic increased after the 2008-09 financial crisis and has continued to influence our debates on how to advance as a nation. There are many proposals for addressing class divisions, but these proposals are frequently inconsistent with one another. This inconsistency is often due to proposed solutions being based on different diagnoses of the problem.

Columbia Business School’s 2019 Social Enterprise Leadership Forum (SELF) will focus on two important diagnoses and solutions that emerge from them. On the one hand, many academics and policy makers see the problem in terms of the distance between the rich and poor—income inequality—with society in a precarious state due to this wide inequality. Others, however, see the problem as largely being one of immobility or lack of opportunity to move up the socio-economic class ladder. From this perspective, the greatest challenge for the U.S. is not inequality per se, but the barriers to mobility.

Reaching a deeper understanding of these two interdependent challenges, and their implications for solutions, is critical to the progress of our nation at this critical juncture. It is a topic central to the business community in our roles as investors, employers, advisors, and citizens, in addition to our substantial influence on policy. As a community with the ability to affect wide-scale change, we need to understand these diagnoses in order to effectively contribute to the solutions.

This event is by invitation only. If you are interested in being added to the invitation list, please contact [email protected].


7:30–7:45 AM

Breakfast and Registration

7:45–8:00 AM

Welcome Remarks

Damon Phillips

Damon Phillips
Lambert Family Professor of Social Enterprise, Management;
Co-director, The Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, Columbia Business School

8:00–8:15 AM

Opening Keynote: A Policy Agenda to Develop Human Capital for the Modern Economy

Glenn Hubbard

Glenn Hubbard
Dean, Dean's Office;
Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School;
Co-Director, Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy, Columbia University

8:15–9:45 AM

Education, Inequality, and Mobility: Unpacking Persistence

 Deirdre Bloome

The Role of Higher Education in Intergenerational Income Persistence
Deirdre Bloome
Assistant Professor, Sociology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, University of Michigan;
Faculty Associate, Population Studies Center


Michael Hout

Persistent Inequalities in College Education: Policy Implications
Michael Hout
Professor of Sociology, Director of Center for Advanced Social Science Research, New York University

 David Grusky

The Case for Economic Affirmative Action
David Grusky
Professor of Sociology, Stanford University;
Director, Center on Poverty & Inequality



9:45–10:00 AM

Coffee Break

10:00–10:30 AM

Inequality and Happiness

 Shigehiro Oishi

Income Inequality and Happiness
Shigehiro Oishi
Visiting Professor of Psychology, Professor Beginning FY19, Department of Psychology, Columbia University

10:30–11:30 AM

Lessons From Other Countries

 Miles Corak

Intergenerational Mobility Between and Within Canada and the United States
Miles Corak
Professor of Economics, Graduate Center of the City University of New York;
Senior Scholar, James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality

 Janet Gornick

The Interplay Between Women’s Earnings and the Income Distribution: A Cross-national Analysis of Latin American and Anglophone Countries
Janet Gornick
Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Graduate Center, City University of New York;
Director, Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality; Director, US Office of LIS

11:30 AM–12:15 PM


12:15–1:00 PM

Lunch Keynote: Leveling the Playing Field through Education 

 Joel Klein

Joel Klein
Chief Policy and Strategy Officer, Oscar Insurance;
Former CEO, Amplify;
Former Chancellor, New York City Public Schools

1:00–1:15 PM

Coffee Break

1:15–2:15 PM

Employment, Inequality, and Mobility

 Tom DiPrete

Executive Pay and Inequality
Tom DiPrete
Giddings Professor of Sociology;
Co-director, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP);
Co-director, Center for the Study of Wealth and Inequality, Columbia University

 Suresh Naidu

Labor Unions, Worker Skills, and Inequality
Suresh Naidu
Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs and Economics, Columbia University


2:15–2:30 PM

Closing Remarks