Course Objectives and Goals:
This course covers the politics of poverty policy within the United States, including relevant approaches to the debates over poverty’s causes, consequences and solutions; the ways in which poverty is defined and measured and how this affects the policy alternatives; the state of economic inequality in the United States; American attitudes toward the poor and policies seeking to address poverty; and, an examination of a case study of a popular program to redress poverty. The recent financial crisis has highlighted the importance of issues related to poverty. Credit card debt, mortgages that are under-water, unemployment and underemployment, and the decline in real wages in the face of ever-rising costs of living have created a great deal of anxiety about economic security. This course and the experiential components should provide students with the tools to understand how these sorts of economic and societal forces influence individual decisions and the policy making process.
We will study the following questions:
• Who is poor and why are they poor?
• What does it mean to be poor? How is poverty defined? And, what does it mean to be “nearly” poor?
• What causes poverty? How do perceptions about the causes of poverty influence government policies directed at the poor?
• What do the American people believe about poverty and poor people?
• What are the main ideas about solutions to poverty?
• What are the politics surrounding poverty & economics?
Learning Outcomes and Instruments of Assessment:
Upon completion of this course, students will have demonstrated substantive knowledge and analytical competence in the understanding of the basic ideas about the causes and consequences of poverty in the United States, as well as knowledge about the politics surrounding issues of poverty. Students will demonstrate this knowledge through classroom participation and through reaction papers. Students will also develop research skills and learn the proper methodologies for writing a research paper in political science through completion of a major research paper.
Peter Edelman, So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s Hard to End Poverty in America (New York: The New Press, 2012)
Martin Gilens, Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy (University of Chicago Press, 2000)
John Iceland, Poverty in America: A Handbook (Updated edition) (University of California Press, 2012)
Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011)
Daniel Rigney, The Matthew Effect: How Advantage Begets Further Advantage (Columbia University Press, 2010)
In addition, several readings are located on Blackboard (denoted BB in list of readings). Log on to http://tulane.blackboard.com/ and click on the course link for POLA 4250. On the left side, click on “Course Documents” and locate the readings (listed by author’s last name(s)).
Regular Attendance, Quizzes, & Active Class Participation: 15%
All students are expected to attend class, be on time, and be prepared to discuss the readings. Participation is a function not only of attendance, but also the quality of contributions. If it becomes necessary, I will give pop quizzes on the reading. I will do my best to make class a positive experience and to make myself available outside of class for students with problems, questions, concerns or who simply want to talk about politics. Please note, however, that students who attend regularly and participate in class are entitled to the bulk of my time outside of class. I am willing to help any student who seeks it, but do not expect too much sympathy if you are not holding up your end of the bargain. If you are struggling, do not wait to contact me.
Midterm and Final Exam: 20% each
Research Project: 45%
Each student will be given a vignette about a person living in poverty or near poverty in the United States. There are three parts to be turned in related to this vignette. More detailed information is attached to the syllabus.
Part 1: Placing Yourself in Poverty in America (20% of project; 9% of final grade)
Part 2: Creating a Monthly Budget (50% of project; 23% of final grade)
Part 3: Analysis of Government Programs and Prescription (30% of project; 13% of final grade)
Students enrolled in the writing practicum will revise Part 1 of the project. It should be turned back in to me exactly one week after I have returned the original papers associated with Part 1.
NOTE ABOUT WRITTEN WORK: Students must turn in two copies of their papers. One should be uploaded to Blackboard through Safe Assignment. The other should be a hard copy. Put the word count at the top of page 1. Number all pages. All work is expected to be at the highest level, meaning NO grammatical mistakes or spelling errors.
93+=A, 90-92=A-, 88-89=B+, 83-87=B, 80-82=B-, 78-79=C+
73-77=C, 70-72=C-, 60-69=D, 0-59=F
*In order to pass the class, students must complete all assignments.*
If you have any kind of special circumstances, such as a disability, illness or handicap, or if you are involved with a university activity that requires you to miss class, let me know as soon as possible. This information is confidential. All students attending Tulane University with documented disabilities are eligible and encouraged to apply for services with the Office of Disability Services (ODS). Please see me for information, or go to http://erc.tulane.edu/disability. Students needing accommodations must provide me with a Course Accommodation Form and if applicable, an Exam Request Form (“blue sheet”) in order to schedule an exam to be taken at ODS. Accommodations involving exams must be requested to me at least seven days before a test or fourteen days before a final exam. Any student receiving an exam-related accommodation should plan to take the exam at ODS and is responsible for picking up the exam from me beforehand.
Attendance is mandatory. I realize that sometimes absences cannot be avoided. Excused absences include university-sponsored events (not including athletic practices – games only), deaths in the family, religious observance, and illnesses with appropriate documentation. In cases of unforeseen absences, you should contact me ASAP to make arrangements. Any unexcused absence on a quiz means you forfeit all points. There are no exceptions and do not bother to ask for one. If absences, tardiness, or under-preparation becomes a problem, your grade will suffer.
Academic honesty is expected of all students at Tulane. Your responsibilities as a Tulane student include being familiar with the honor code and the plagiarism policy of the University. Cases of cheating or plagiarism will be reported to the Honor Board, and may result in a failing grade for the class, academic probation, or expulsion. Ignorance is not a valid excuse.
Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to the following actions:
a) presenting another’s work as if it were one’s own;
b) failing to acknowledge or document a source even if the action is unintended (i.e., plagiarism) (this includes copying & pasting material from the internet);
c) giving or receiving, or attempting to give or receive, unauthorized assistance or information in an assignment or examination;
d) submitting the same assignment in two or more courses without prior permission of the respective instructors;
e) having another person write a paper or sit for an examination (includes online paper-mills);
f) using tests or papers from students in prior semesters
Other Classroom Rules
1. No electronic devices may be used in class, including lap top computers (unless you have documentation from ODS), cell phones, I-Pads, etc. NOTE: It is completely obvious when students use cell phones in class. You are fooling no one and I get really irritated.
2. Students must not be chronically late, absent or disruptive; otherwise, your grade will suffer. This includes regularly coming and going from the classroom during class. On the rare occasion that you are late or must leave early, please make every attempt not to disrupt class by walking across the room, in front of me, or making excessive noise. Except in emergencies, students will not be allowed to leave and return to the classroom during an exam.
NOTE: If you have an activity (class, work, athletic practice, etc.) that meets just before this class, you are still expected to make it to class on time. If you cannot make it to class on time, then do not take this course. Be aware that delays due to traffic, parking difficulty, or computer or printer problems are to be anticipated and are not considered valid excuses for tardiness, late papers or missing quizzes or exams.
3. Most assignments and quizzes take place at the beginning of class. Once I have taken attendance and started class, assignments are considered late and will be docked 5 points (half letter grade). Papers turned in after class is over are docked one letter grade per day (not per class). If you enter after a quiz has begun, you may not be allowed to take it and it will count as a zero.
Course Schedule and Reading Assignments
Jan 15: Introductions
Reading: Iceland, chapter 1
I. Background on Poverty and American Conceptions of the Poor
Jan. 17: Views & Measures of Poverty
Reading: Iceland, chapters 2-3
MANDATORY LECTURE: Professor Eric Plutzer, Pennsylvania State University —- 5pm, LBC 202
Jan. 22: Who is poor?
Reading: Iceland, chapter 4
Rebecca Blank, “The Changing Face of Poverty,” (Chapter 1 of It Takes a Nation: A New Agenda for Fighting Poverty) (Princeton University Press, 1997), pp. 13-30. (BB)
Jan. 24: Causes of Poverty
Reading: Iceland, chapters 5-6
Michael B. Katz, “From the Undeserving Poor to the Culture of Poverty,” (Chapter 1 of The Undeserving Poor: From the War on Poverty to the War on Welfare) (New York: Pantheon Books, 1989), pp. 9-35. (BB)
Jan 29: American Conceptions of Poverty & Welfare
Reading: Gilens, chapters 1-2
Jan. 31: American Attitudes Cont’d
Reading: Gilens, chapters 3-4
Feb 5: The Media’s Influence on Attitudes
Reading: Gilens, chapter 5
Part 1 of Research Project Due
Feb 7: Racial Stereotypes and Poverty Attitudes
Reading: Gilens, chapters 6-7
Feb 12: No Class – Mardi Gras
II. The Roles of Economic Growth and Jobs in Reducing Poverty
Feb 14: Does Economic Growth Reduce Poverty?
Reading: Rebecca Blank, “A Changing Economy,” (Chapter 2 in It Takes a Nation: A New Agenda for Fighting Poverty) (Princeton University Press, 1997), pp 52-82. (BB)
Feb 19: Economic Growth and Jobs
Reading: Lawrence Mishel, et al. “Jobs,” (Chapter 5 in The State of Working America, 12th edition) (Economic Policy Institute at Cornell University Press, 2012) Available at http://stateofworkingamerica.org/subjects/jobs/?reader.
Feb 21: Joblessness and the Urban “Underclass”
Reading: William J. Wilson, “Jobless Poverty: A New Form of Social Dislocation in the Inner-city Ghetto,” In A Nation Divided: Diversity, Inequality and Community in American Society, edited by Phyllis Moen, Donna Dempster-McClain, and Henry A. Walker (Cornell University Press, 1999), pp. 133-150. (BB)
Elijah Anderson, “The Story of John Turner,” Available at http://www.nationalaffairs.com/doclib/20080709_19921081thestoryofjohnturnerelijahanderson.pdf
Feb 26: Midterm Exam
Feb 28: The Working Poor
Reading: David K. Shipler, The Working Poor: Invisible in America (New York: Random House, 2004), Intro + chapters 1-2 (BB)
March 5: Are There Enough Jobs?
Reading: Gordon Lafer, “How Many Jobs Are There?” (Chapter 1 in The Job Training Charade) (Cornell University Press, 2002), pp 19-44 (BB)
March 7: Skills Mis-match
Reading: Lafer, “How Important Is Education?” (Chapter 2 in The Job Training Charade) (Cornell University Press, 2002), pp 45-87 (BB)
Adam Davidson, “Skills Don’t Pay the Bills,” The New York Times, November 20, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/magazine/skills-dont-pay-the-bills.html?hp&_r=0&pagewanted=all&pagewanted=print
III. The Welfare State
March 12: Welfare Policy
Reading: Iceland, chapter 7
March 14: Accomplishments of the Welfare State
Reading: Edelman, chapters 1-4
Nicholas Kristof, “Profiting from a Child’s Illiteracy,” The New York Times (December 7, 2012) Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/opinion/sunday/kristof-profiting-from-a-childs-illiteracy.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
March 19: Deep Poverty & Welfare
Reading: Edelman, chapters 5-6
Sabrina Tavernise, “Food Stamps Helped Reduce Poverty Rate, Study Finds,” The New York Times, April 9, 2012. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/10/us/food-stamp-program-helping-reduce-poverty.html
Part 2 of Research Project Due
March 21: Can We Educate Our Way Out of Poverty?
Reading: Edelman, chapter 7
David C. Berliner, “Sorting Out the Effects of Inequality and Poverty, Teachers, and Schooling on America’s Youth,” In Educational Policy and the Socialization of Youth for the 21st Century, edited by S.L. Nichols (New York: Teachers College Press, 2013). Available at http://schoolandsociety2012fall.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/58718340/Berliner2013.pdf
March 26 & 28: Spring Break
IV. Inequality and Poverty
April 2: Matthew Effects
Reading: Rigney, chapters 1, 3
April 4: Inequality
Reading: Rigney, chapters 4-6
April 9: Current State of Inequality in the U.S.
Reading: Hacker & Pierson, Intro
Mishel, et al. “Overview” (Chapter 1 in The State of Working America, 12th edition) (Economic Policy Institute at Cornell University Press, 2012) (BB)
April 11: No Class
V. The Politics of Poverty Policy
April 16: Partisan Differences in Approaches to Poverty Policy
Reading: Hacker & Pierson, chapters 1
Larry M. Bartels, “The Partisan Political Economy” (Chapter 2 of Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age) (Princeton University Press, 2008), pp. 29-63. (BB)
April 18: Politics of Winner-Take-All
Reading: Hacker & Pierson, chapters 2-3
April 23: Rise of Winner-Take-All
Reading: Hacker & Pierson, chapters 4-6
April 25: Democrats & Republicans to Blame
Reading: Hacker & Pierson, chapters 7-8
April 30: Can Things Be Changed?
Reading: Hacker & Pierson, chapters 9-end
Part 3 of Research Project Due
Final Exam – Saturday, May 11 – 8am