Introductory Course

360.247 Introduction to Social Policy and Inequality: Baltimore and Beyond
How can we address pressing social problems, such as inner-city poverty, inequality in educational attainment among children from different backgrounds, and disparities in access to health care? Social policy refers to the programs, legislation, and governmental activities that regulate access to important social, financial, and institutional resources needed by members of a society to address these concerns. Social policy also aims to reduce inequality, especially in the areas of education, health, income, housing, neighborhoods, and employment. The study of social policy is interdisciplinary, and this course will introduce students to the basic concepts in economics, political science, and sociology relevant to the study of social problems and the programs designed to remedy them. We will cover issues of national policy importance, as well as issues specifically affecting Baltimore City and the metropolitan region. This course is open to all students, but will be required for the new social policy minor. The course is also recommended for students who are interested in law school, medical school, programs in public health, and graduate school in related social science fields. The course will be taught in a lecture/discussion format by a team of three professors. In Fall 2014, these will be Kathryn Edin (sociology) Barbara Morgan (economics), and Adam Sheingate (political science). 3 credits.

See below for a comprehensive list of course electives.  Please consult your academic adviser or course catalog for a list of courses currently being offered.

360.400, Social Policy Senior Seminar
This capstone seminar course, normally offered in the fall semester, involves discussion and research among students who have completed the intensive semester and is intended to build up experiences in that semester.

Social Policy Electives

  • Sociology

    230.305 Poverty and Welfare Policy
    Examines the scope, character, and causes of poverty, the major policies to address it, and the movement toward welfare reform. The roles of migration, race/ethnicity, and gender are considered. 3 credits.

    230.313 Space, Place, Poverty, and Race: Sociological Perspectives on Neighborhoods and Public Housing
    Is a neighborhood just a grouping of individuals living in the same place, or do neighborhoods have collective meanings and impacts on children and families? We will capitalize on research methodologies used to define and describe neighborhoods and their effects on economic and educational outcomes. These include case studies, census data, surveys, quasi/experimental data. Focus is on how research measures neighborhood effects and incorporates community-level processes into models of social causation (e.g., social capital/control, community efficacy, civic engagement). Also examined: patterns in residential mobility, segregation, and preferences within black and white populations; development of housing policy in the U.S.; programs to determine how neighborhoods affect issues of social importance. Statistics and public policy background is helpful but not required. 3 credits.

    230.317 Sociology of Immigration
    This course surveys sociological theories and research on immigration to the U.S. Theoretical approaches include theories of international migration, economic sociology, immigration, and assimilation. Research topics include the impact of U.S. immigration laws and policies on immigrant inflows and stocks, self-selection of immigrants, the impact of immigration on the native-born population and the U.S. labor market and economy, and the adaptation of the first and second generations. The course focuses on immigration since 1965 and its related controversies and debates. 3 credits.

    230.333 Quality and Inequality in American Education
    The tension between quality and equality in American education, as developed in the various writings of James S. Coleman, will be the focus of this course. Major works to be considered will include The Adolescent Society, Equality of Educational Opportunity, Youth in Transition, Trends in School Segregation, and Public and Private High Schools. 3 credits.

    230.380 Poverty and Social Welfare Policy
    This course examines the causes and consequences of U.S. poverty and explores strategies for addressing it, with some comparisons to other rich nations. We cover the major theoretical explanations scholars have advanced to explain the persistence of poverty and inequality including labor markets, residential segregation, welfare policy, family structure, and the criminal justice system. Within each topic area, students are introduced to contemporary policy approaches aimed at alleviating poverty, and evaluations of these approaches. 3 credits. K. Edin.

    230.385. Schooling, Racial Inequality, and Public Policy in America
    After examining alternative explanations for why individuals obtain different amounts and types of educational training, the course focuses on how an individual’s family background and race affect his or her trajectory through the educational system. The course covers the specific challenges that have confronted urban schooling in America since the 1960s, including the classic literature on the effects of school and community resources on student achievement as well as the development and later evaluation of school desegregation policies. The course also considers case studies of current policy debates in the US, such as housing segregation and school resegregation, voucher programs for school choice, and the motivation for and consequences of the establishment of state-mandated testing requirements. Throughout the course, emphasis is placed upon the alternative modes of inquiry and writing which opposing scholars, policymakers, and journalists use to address these contentious topics. 3 credits. S. Morgan.

  • Economics

    180.252 Economics of Discrimination
    We examine labor market outcomes (earnings, employment) by race and gender in the United States, evaluate supply-side explanations for these outcomes, consider the validity of several alternative economic theories of discrimination, and assess the impact of public policies to combat discrimination. Students will critically evaluate the theoretical and empirical literature, and further their knowledge of statistical methodologies that examine discrimination. Prerequisites: 180.102. 3 credits.

    180.289 Economics of Health
    Application of economic concepts and analysis to the health services system. Review of empirical studies of demand for health services, behavior of providers, and relationship of health services to population health levels. Discussion of current policy issues relating to financing and resource allocation. Prerequisites: 180.102. 3 credits.

    180.321 The Economics of Growing Up
    The goal of this course is to use economic models to investigate life events such as going to school, getting married, and having children. The course will focus on individual behavior and outcomes in six important stages of the life cycle: early childhood, schooling, adolescence, marriage and divorce, child bearing years, and retirement. During each life stage, students will be introduced to both theoretical models and empirical tools that can be used to answer a variety of questions from each topic. While the course is designed to introduce students to a variety of economic theory and empirical techniques, the material is designed to prepare upper level students to write a proposal on an original research question. Prerequisites: 180.301 and 180.344 or similar level of statistical knowledge. 3 credits.

    180.351 Labor Economics
    Students will extend their knowledge of economic theory as it applies to the labor market, examine earnings and employment outcomes and assess the efficiency and equity impacts of several governmental programs. A continuing focus will be on the methodologies and statistical techniques labor economists employ. In the second part of the course student will have the opportunity to use both economic theory and empirical evidence to analyze in depth such topics as discrimination, inequality and the impact of immigration and globalization on the labor market.
    Prerequisites: 180.301; knowledge of statistical analysis up to the level of simple regression is also helpful. 3 credits.

    180.355 Economics of Poverty and Inequality
    This course covers the theories and evidence developed by economists for the analysis of income inequality and poverty. The first half of the course discusses economic theories of inequality, motivations for why society should care about inequality and poverty, as well as concepts and detailed statistical measures. The second half of the course considers theories and evidence for different explanations of inequality: human capital, intergenerational transmissions, neighborhoods, family structure and discrimination. Solutions and government policies to reduce inequality and poverty are discussed. Prerequisites: 180.301; knowledge of statistical analysis up to the level of simple regression is also helpful. 3 credits.

    180.363 Sex Drugs and Dynamic Optimization: The Economics of Risky Behavior
    We apply the tools of economic analysis to understand behaviors that are enjoyable today, but may heave negative consequences in the future. 3 credits. N. Papageorge.

    180.365 Public Finance
    Examines competing views of the appropriate role of government in the economy and its actual role, including analysis of the principal taxes and expenditure programs with a particular emphasis on Social Security and other social insurance programs. Prerequisites: 180.301 and 180.302. 3 credits.

    180.389 Social Policy and Behavioral Economics
    Economists increasingly incorporate insights from psychology into models of rational decision-making. Known as behavioral economics”, this line of research considers how, for example, emotions, rules-of-thumb, biased beliefs and time inconsistent preferences influence how we make choices. Behavioral economics increasingly pervades policy discussions on topics as diverse as: obesity, media coverage, subprime mortgages and voting patterns. Behavioral models are certainly novel, but do they help us to design superior social policies? With the goal of preparing students to address this question, this course (1) provides a thorough overview of the main contributions of behavioral economics, highlighting departures from more traditional economic models and (2) emphasizes how behavioral economic models might (or might not) improve how we think about social policy. Prerequisites: 180.301 and 180.344 or permission of the instructor. 3 credits.

  • Political Science

    190.337 The Constitution and the Criminal Justice System
    Explores how the Constitution has shaped the theory and practice of the American criminal justice system, including arrests, searches and seizure of evidence, interrogation, prosecution, adjudication and plea bargaining, and sentencing. What is a “fair trial?” What is “due process?” What is “equality before the law?” What are “victims’ rights?” 3 credits.

    190.354 Politics of Health Policy
    Traces the evolution of the American Health care system, emphasis on the political forces that shape public and private provision of health care in the United States. 3 credits.

    190.384 Urban Politics & Policy
    An analysis of public policy and policymaking for American Cities. Special attention will be given to the subject of urban crime and law enforcement, poverty and welfare, and intergovernmental relations. 3 credits.

    190.385 Urban Politics & Policy
    An analysis of public policy and policymaking for American Cities. Special attention will be given to the subject of urban crime and law enforcement, poverty and welfare, and intergovernmental relations. 3 credits. Spence.

    190.391 Time to Kill: Race, Punishment, Death and Desire
    This course examines the role of race in determining who deserves to be punished, the timing and occasions of punitive action and how long punishment should endure. Key to our inquiry is how racialized presumptions about human desire might justify punitive logics of power. The class explores inequalities in the distribution of punishment and death in order to illuminate how race shapes questions of whose time is more valuable, who lives and who dies, and ultimately whose lives count as human. 3 credits. P. Brendese.

    190.395 Crime and Society
    Contrary to the image most Americans have of their country, the United States is a tough nation with respect to crime. The U.S. has constructed a considerably more harsh criminal justice regime than any of its advanced industrial counterparts. In recent years, America’s prisons and jails have held more than one percent of the nation’s adults—2.3 million people—with many more on parole, probation or temporarily free on bail awaiting trial. In Western Europe, by contrast, fewer than two-tenths of one percent of the adult populace is behind bars. This enormous discrepancy in incarceration rates is more a function of the relative severity of America’s criminal laws than differences between Europe and the U.S. in the actual incidence of serious crime. And, of course, while Western European nations no longer execute convicted criminals, the U.S. remains committed to the use of capital punishment. We will explore these and related issues of crime and punishment in the U.S. 3 credits.

    190.405 Food Politics
    This course examines the politics of food at the local, national, and global level. Topics include the politics of agricultural subsidies, struggles over genetically modified foods, government efforts at improving food safety, and issues surrounding obesity and nutrition policy. Juniors, seniors, and graduate students only. Cross-listed with Public Health Studies. 3 credits. A. Sheingate.

    190.417 American Welfare State
    This seminar analyzes the distinctive US welfare state in historical and comparative perspective. Special attention to policy development over time in health care; pensions; taxes; and work and poverty. 3 credits.

    190.424 Policy Disasters
    Limited to Seniors or with permission of instructor. Investigates the causes of large-scale policy disasters, examining the role of ideology, psychology, organization design and political incentives. Examples may be drawn from the Iraq War, Bay of Pigs, Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Financial crisis, Shuttle Challenger disaster, economic development policy, privatization, and the Great Society. 3 credits.

    190.425 The New Deal and American Politics
    This seminar explores how the New Deal, the fundamental moment in the post-Civil War United States, has structured politics and government across a variety of domains ever since. Topics include presidential leadership, executive power, political parties, labor, race, and the welfare state. 3 credits. D. Schlozman.

    190.475 Courts, Politics and Public Policy
    Examines the causes of American legal change, with particular focus on the role of social movements, and whether and how legal change produces social change. Among the particular cases examined will be civil, prisoners’ and women’s rights. 3 credits.