Poverty continues to be a pressing social problem in the United States, especially among children and families. Policies aimed at addressing poverty have seen a dramatic overhaul in the last 20 years, with the “end of welfare as we know it” and welfare’s replacement with a complicated set of piecemeal programs. At the same time, significant new issues have arisen that the creators and critics of welfare reform did not anticipate.
This course examines the causes and consequences of poverty in the United States, and reviews the major social policies used to combat poverty’s ill effects. The course will begin by acquainting students with the definition and extent of poverty in the United States. We will then discuss the negative effects of poverty on child and adult well-being. Next we consider the causes of poverty in the United States, examining cultural, institutional, economic, and family explanations. Finally, we will turn our attention to anti-poverty policies and programs. As we move through this section, we will think about the tradeoffs and unintended consequences present in America’s safety net. (course description)