This course will examine competing theories and policy proposals for how to increase the rate of income and social mobility among lower- and middle-class Americans. The economic status of the middle class in the United States is an enduring public policy issue. Recent public debates have focused on wage stagnation among the vast majority of working Americans as the incomes of the wealthiest Americans continue to rise. We will explore a number of questions that are central to this debate. What are the key drivers of upward mobility and how can public policy promote them? Do public policy proposals offered by various policymakers address the underlying problems? How are geographic and economic mobility related? How do we assess competing proposals and are there policy ideas that could attract support across the ideological and political spectrum? Which laws, regulations, and court cases have been designed to help middle class workers, and what effect have they had? The course will explore these and related questions with a particular focus on the challenges of developing policy solutions in a highly charged political environment.
Writing requirements are as follows:
- Weekly critiques/analyses of the required reading for the week
- Mid-term (approx 10-12 pp.): analysis of an existing policy proposal on income mobility in Congress, a state legislature, or from a think tank or scholar
- Final paper (15-20 pp): Policy proposal of your own on income mobility (can be federal or state level)