11.006 | Fall 2016 | Undergraduate

Poverty and Economic Security


Course Meeting Times

Two lectures/week, 1.5 hours/lecture


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Description

Discussions preceding the upcoming presidential election (2016) reveal discontent and feelings of insecurity among Americans. Individuals, families and households are anxious, finding it difficult and in some places impossible to earn a living wage no matter how hard they work. Uncertainty about one’s respective economic circumstances is growing, and a lack of clear explanation for rising economic disparity is raising questions about individual prospects for membership in the middle class. At the same time, Americans living at income levels at or below the poverty line - the truly poor exist in the shadows and are mostly silent and often utterly ignored by the general population. In this class, we will study the topic of poverty and economic security through the lens of the lived experience of Americans: individuals, families, and households. We will explore the history, geography, and forces shaping the likelihood of being poor in America.

A graph of household income by race from 1967 to 2015.

Courtesy of the United States Census Bureau. This image is in the public domain.

Course Objectives

  1. To understand various definitions of the term “poverty,” learn how it is measured, and appreciate the policy relevance of metrics.
  2. To gain contextual knowledge of poverty and economic security, their history and ecology, and to relate these to various policies in the U.S. and in global contexts
  3. To appreicate the interrelationship of economic status, race, opportunity, and community.
  4. To explore and communicate the personal and human aspects of economic security; and to reflect on the alternative futures in which current college students and other young people are embedded.
  5. Develop a class project that examines the costs of being poor in a dynamic urban environment like Boston.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments