American Children in Poverty

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
THU 9:00 am - 12:00 pm SRH 3.219



Over 16 million children in the United States grow up poor, which means one out of every five kids in America faces increased risk of worse health, education, and future economic outcomes. While many US policies, social enterprises, and nonprofit organizations aim to improve life trajectories for vulnerable youths, some are more effective than others. This course explores pro-child interventions with experiences inside and outside the classroom before giving students the opportunity to take their own shot at improving outcomes for children in-need.

This course, which aims to prepare effective social entrepreneurs and advocates, answers three fundamental questions about disparities among America’s children:

  1. What do experts say? Alongside guest lectures, debates, and panels with subject expertise, students will investigate social issues impacting children’s health and wellbeing. We will study the evidence on inequalities, debate US government programs and policies, and explore examples of relevant social enterprises and nonprofits.
  1. What do children (and their families) say? Students have the opportunity to see US social policy and programming up-close by travelling with Dr. Mike’s “Street Pediatrics” team, a mobile clinic serving Austin’s hardest-to-reach, highest-risk youths. Our intent is to learn from local communities’ families and children in poverty.
  1. What do you say do? Applying lessons from both the classroom and community, student-entrepreneurs will practice design thinking in interdisciplinary teams alongside community partner organizations to develop and pitch plans for products, services, or movements aimed at improving life trajectories for vulnerable children.


  • To help students develop a deeper understanding of domestic child poverty and disparities, their impact on children’s life trajectories, and the policies and entrepreneurial programs trying to mitigate their effects.
  • To give students an advocacy platform via writing to both lay readers and policy leaders.
  • To dive deep into the many steps and principles of design thinking and hypothesis-driven startups—a skillset students can deploy in future studies and careers.
  • To provide an opportunity for students to apply lessons learned in both the classroom and community to build and pitch their own plans for practical solutions to child suffering.


Students will be evaluated based on class participation and performance on three assignments: (1) 500-word Memo to the President or 650-word Opinion Editorial; (2) first and final drafts of a business plan; and (3) final class deliverables, including a one-pager, PowerPoint deck, and 5-minute pitch on their new social impact organization.


Readings may include academic articles, book chapters, listening to podcasts, and lay media pieces. The majority of reading assignments will be required for the first six classes. Students will spend more time working with their teams and community partners during the latter classes when less required readings are assigned.

This course requires instructor permission to enroll. Application available at


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