ECON 367
The Political Economy of Social Insurance Spring 2024
Division II Quantitative/Formal Reasoning

Class Details

The Great Society policies of the 1960s dramatically changed the ways people living in poverty interacted with the federal government, but the benefits associated with these policies seem to have stagnated. Since 1965, the annual poverty rate in the United States has hovered between 10% and 15%, though far more than 15% of Americans experience poverty at some point in their lives. In this course, we will study public policies that, explicitly or implicitly, have as a goal improving the well-being of the poor in the United States. These policies include social insurance programs such as Unemployment Insurance; safety net programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and housing assistance; education programs such as Head Start and public education; and parts of the tax code, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. We will explore the design and function of these programs, with a particular focus on the context in which they were developed. What political incentives and constraints have strung up our social safety net? How do these factors affect the goals of policy, the trade-offs inherent to the policy’s design, and why poverty has not sustained a downward trend in the United States? Through careful consideration, students will learn how to communicate a path forward for public policy which accounts for theoretical economic expectations and the reality of political constraints in policy design.
The Class: Format: lecture; Lecture with substantial class discussion.
Limit: 25
Expected: 25
Class#: 3957
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Several short policy memos, participation in class discussion, and a final analytical essay.
Prerequisites: ECON 253 or 255
Enrollment Preferences: Students majoring in economics or political economy.
Distributions: Division II Quantitative/Formal Reasoning
QFR Notes: This course will use quantitative tools of economics. Focus on building data visualization & science communication skills after ECON 255.
Attributes: POEC Skills

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