HONR 228R 

Dr. Natasha Cabrera, College of Education

Approximately 2.8 million or twenty per cent of children in the United States (U.S.) are poor; that is, they live with one or both parents who are poor. The U.S. has the second highest rate of child poverty among developed countries (Mexico has the highest). While there is tremendous variation, overall, children growing up in poverty are more likely to live in communities characterized by high levels of unemployment and crime, single-parent households, poor housing quality, schooling, and health care than are non-poor children. These circumstances of poverty place children at risk for a host of negative developmental outcomes.

This course will begin with a discussion of what it means to be poor in the U. S. in order to consider the various ways that poverty has been defined. The course will take a multidisciplinary perspective–sociological, developmental, psychological, demographical, and anthropological–to examine the empirical literature on the effects of poverty on children’s development.

Students will learn about the following topics: What is poverty? Who is poor? How do poverty conditions shape the environments (home, school, community) in which children grow up? What are the effects of poverty on parenting? What are the effects of poverty and parenting on children’s development? Are there better times to be poor during the life course? What is the role of public policy and social programs in reducing rates of child poverty? In addition, students will also learn about basic concepts in psychological, developmental research methodology, measurement and design, and issues related to connecting research to policy and interventions. These topics will help students think critically about the complex nature of poverty, its consequences, and long-term effects for children, families, and society at large.

Assignments include five quizzes (15%), two short writing assignments (40%), short oral presentation on topic selected by student (10%), participation in and contribution to group discussions (15%), and a final research project (20%). One of the short assignments will be a critique of a journal article on a topic chosen by the student; this assignment is designed to promote the student’s ability to critically examine research findings. The second writing assignment will be a reaction paper; for the purpose of supporting the student’s ability to integrate and summarize central issues in assigned readings. The final research paper will be on a topic selected by the student (can build on earlier writing assignments). The main goal of this research paper is to determine what is currently addressed in the extant literature about a topic of interest, as well as what important aspects of the topic are currently under-explored?

Readings include: Empirical articles such as D. M. Betson & R. T. Michael (1997). Why so Many Children are Poor; Selections from books such as G.J. Duncan & J. Brooks-Gunn, (Eds.) Consequences of Growing Up Poor and S. Danzinger & J. Waldfogel (Eds). Securing the Future: Investing in Children from Birth to College; Policy reports such as The Effects of Welfare Reform Policies on Children; and, magazine articles such as “The War Over Poverty,” The Economist.