What happened when I tried to teach Harvard undergrads about inequality and poverty

Nikita Taniparti:

I checked the syllabus for the next topic in the undergraduate economics class I teach at Harvard, and I lit up. I was going to cover inequality and poverty in the US and across the world.

After a few dry lectures on market demand and supply and drawing graphs to understand taxes and subsidies, I sensed my students were ready for a change of scene. Finally, a practical topic we could discuss in class. I could even ask for examples and anecdotes.

The whole semester, the class had seemed to demand more rigor (contrary to stories about the Harvard “bubble”). One student asked for the multi-variable derivation of how to make an optimal decision, just “for fun.” Another came to every office hours to review practice questions that most students didn’t even know where to find. Yet another not only read the assigned reading for class every day, but also the textbook of a higher-level economics course.