The Welfare State: First Year Writing Seminar (Spring 2021)

The “welfare state” is a controversial term. Conservatives emphasize that markets can generate efficient economies without state intervention, but progressives worry this approach results in the inequitable distribution of wealth. Do welfare states constrain economic freedoms or protect social rights? Are contemporary social policies even financially sustainable in the current economy? To better understand these debates, this course examines the origins and development of social protection in the U.S. and Western Europe. We will study how politics shapes the way we debate welfare.

Health Equity, Politics, and Policy: Undergraduate lecture (Fall 2021, co-taught with Jamila Michener)

COVID-19 did not affect everyone equally. In fact, the opposite is true: the pandemic exposed dramatic health inequities by race, class, gender, and other factors. Not only were some groups more likely to catch and die from the virus than others, these same groups disproportionately suffered from its economic and social fallout, too. In the wake of this devastation, this course examines health (in)equities and what we can do about them. We explore what health equity means and how politics, policy, and power shape it -- both over time and across countries. Students will investigate how a wide range of social determinants (in addition to public health and health care systems) configure differences in health status across demographic groups. Three key touchstones of the class will be (1) a series of “deep dives” into specific policy areas, such as housing and environmental health, maternal and child health, and mental health and well-being (2) a consistent emphasis on politics, markets, and power (3) substantive opportunities for students to actively engage in health equity efforts beyond the classroom.

Comparative Social Policy: Senior Major Seminar (Spring 2021, Spring 2022)

How a society confronts and shapes socio-economic inequality depends largely on the policy tools at its disposal. A range of remedies – in areas as diverse as employment, education, health care, retirement, disability, housing, and parental leave – are available, yet different countries pursue alternative approaches to these issues. This seminar examines how politics shapes a government’s social policy strategies. We will review the classic theories of welfare state variation emerging from Western Europe, how they shed light on the American approach to social policy, and to what extent they apply outside affluent democracies. We also will consider whether existing social policies can adapt to emerging issues, such as those posed by the gig economy and climate change.

American Political Economy in Comparative Perspective: Graduate seminar (Spring 2022)

This course examines key features of the American political economy in comparative perspective. The increased academic attention to this subject allows us to investigate, moreover, why and how new research areas emerge in the discipline. We will review core literature in comparative political economy, situate the U.S. case within it, and highlight its distinctive aspects. In doing so, we consider a range of topics, such as labor markets, finance, taxation, social policy, and the role of corporate and other affluent interests – and their impact on substantive outcomes like inequality and economic performance. A central goal is to identify promising avenues for further research.