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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Tina Aiko Schaefer
SOC W 501
Seattle Campus

Poverty and Inequality

Analysis of poverty and inequality in United States. Analytic and descriptive focus on measurement, processes of production and perpetuation, and public policy responses. Examines causes of poverty, the role of policy, and socioeconomic dimensions of stratification, including race, ethnicity, class, gender, immigration status, disability, age, sexual orientation, and family structure.

Class description

This course is a critical analysis of poverty and inequality, with an analytic and descriptive focus on measurement, processes of production and perpetuation, and public policy responses. It examines competing perspectives on the causes of poverty and inequality, the role of policy, and socioeconomic dimensions of stratification, including race, ethnicity, class, gender, immigration status, disability, age, sexual orientation and family structure. This course builds upon historical and critical analysis content covered in the "Intellectual and Historical Foundations of Professional Social Work Practice" and links to policy advocacy and policy analysis material covered in policy practice sessions in the "Macro practice" sequence. Together, these courses offer a foundation in the historical, political, economic, and philosophical context of U.S. social welfare policy, familiarize students with current policy controversies, build skills in policy analysis and advocacy, and help students critically analyze competing perspectives on poverty and inequality, in preparation for socially just social work practice. The goal of the course is to enable students to critically examine the dimensions, causes, consequences and perpetuation of poverty and inequality in the U.S., to understand the role of policy in producing, maintaining, and alleviating poverty and inequality, and to offer a theoretical and analytic foundation for promoting social and economic justice.

Student learning goals

This course targets the following SSW foundation competencies and related practice behaviors: Competency #3: Apply critical thinking to inform and communicate professional judgments 3a. Use critical thinking to distinguish, evaluate, and integrate multiple sources of knowledge, including research-based knowledge, practice wisdom, and client/constituent experience. 3b.Critically analyze models of 3b.) assessment, 3c.) prevention, 3d.) intervention, and 3e.) evaluation, especially in relation to their cultural relevance and applicability and their promotion of social justice. Competency #4: Engage diversity and difference in practice 4a. Recognize and articulate the ways in which social and cultural structures—including history, institutions, and values—oppress some identity groups while enhancing the privilege and power of dominant groups. Competency #5: Advance human rights and social and economic justice 5a. Understand and articulate the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and approaches to advancing social justice and human rights. 5b. Advocate for and engage in practices that address disparities and inequalities and advance human rights and social and economic justice. Competency #6: Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research 6c. Qualitative research evidence to inform practice. 6d. Quantitative research evidence to inform practice. Competency #8: Engage in policy practice to advance social and economic well-being and to deliver effective social work services 8a. Use critical understanding of the history and current form of US social welfare and social service policies (e.g., institutions, governance, and financing) to formulate policies and strategies that advance social and economic justice. 8b. Formulate policies and strategies that improve social service delivery. Competency #9: Respond to contexts that shape practice 9a. Continuously discover, appraise, and attend to changing locales, populations, scientific and technological developments, and emerging societal trends to provide culturally relevant services.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Kelly A Hoeft
Date: 12/10/2013