Race, Ethnicity & U.S. Public Policy
There has been long-standing concern in American society about the plight of the poor. Policy and public opinion reflect the nuances of the debate, creating programs and discourse that embody a constant tension between the desire to meet the basic needs of the poor and the fear of overextending the hand of the state. At the same time, while the majority of the poor do not come from any particular minority group, the disproportionate representation of minority families among the country’s impoverished population does raise important questions. We will engage work that centers the analysis of race/ethnicity, poverty, and public policy in five important venues: (1) work and the economy; (2) families; (3) education; (4) neighborhoods and cities; and (5) health and reproduction. In this advanced undergraduate seminar, students will develop an in-depth understanding of the scope of poverty in America and consider competing theories on its causes and perpetuation. Students will also read work that theorizes the role of racial stratification in the creation and perpetuation of economic marginalization and reflect on its present day incarnations. Ethnographic work on the everyday lives of poor individuals will receive special attention to develop a better understanding of the structural and individual challenges they face.