Soc 315

Social Welfare

Credits: 5

Course time(s): Every fall term, usually 9 or 10 am M-F

General Education: Does not fulfill gen-ed requirements

Catalog description: Analysis of the concept of social welfare including an introduction to the nature of government and voluntary programs and the services provided by them, as well as their theory, principles, and methods.

Prerequisites: None, but Soc 204 or 205 is recommended, and college level reading and writing ability is expected.


Most recent syllabusFall 2017

Recent textbooks used:

  • Annette Lareau. 2012. Unequal Childhoods (2nd edition). Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Jane Collins and Victoria Mayer. 2010. Both Hands Tied: Welfare Reform and the Race to the Bottom in the Low-Wage Labor Market. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Karen Seccombe. 2006. Families in Poverty (Volume 1 in Families in 21st Century series, Susan Ferguson, editor). NY: Pearson.
  • David Shipler. 2005. The Working Poor: Invisible in America. NY: Vintage.
  • Sharon Hays. 2003. Flat broke, with children. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Barbara Ehrenreich. 2001. Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America. New York: Owl Books.
  • Bradley Schiller. 2001. The economics of poverty and discrimination. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Karen Seccombe. 1997. So you think I drive a Cadillac? Boston: Allwyn and Bacon.

General topics covered: history of welfare; inequality and poverty; welfare state theory; welfare programs and the welfare system; low-wage work; family; stigma; corporate welfare

Course objectives

1. be exposed to the historical context of social welfare in the United States.
2. be familiar with the various types of public social welfare programs and policies.
3. be able to critically evaluate political arguments surrounding social welfare programs.
4. examine the relationships between poverty, inequality and low-wage work.
5. become familiar with welfare reforms begun in the mid 1990s, and their impacts.

Social welfare can be broadly defined as social intervention designed to enhance or maintain human welfare. That’s pretty broad, and could include things like police and fire services (in fact multinational energy companies might say they’re in the welfare business with that sort of eligibility requirement). Most of the time we limit this to interventions designed to improve the lives or situations of the distressed and the disadvantaged. You can probably think of various populations that would meet these requirements-people and families falling below the poverty line, victims of natural disasters, refugees seeking asylum from political persecution, migrant farm workers, disabled persons, the elderly, parolees from corrections, the unemployed, combat veterans, people without housing, children who’ve been removed from their homes, AIDS patients, victims of sexual assault, etc. For each of these groups of people, there may be public, private or non-profit resources, agencies or programs available to help meet their needs. Social welfare is also a politically charged arena, especially in the U.S. where popular cultural assumptions perpetuate the belief that people are entirely responsible for their own circumstances in life, and government shouldn’t be in the business of ‘providing handouts.’ A more structural argument contends that many people severe disadvantages and daily struggles for survival, living on the margins of a system where success is measured in monetary terms, failure dismissed as flawed character, and underfunded government policies often reflect the power of wealth and political connections more than sound public policy designed to confront poverty and its corrosive effects for society.

This class is a requirement for students taking the Anth/Soc major with a concentration in Sociology/Social Welfare.