A growing portion of the US population is living in poverty. Historically and today, groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, Native Americans, immigrants, people with disabilities, and single parent households have borne the brunt of US poverty. "Poverty law," which has its roots in the old English "Poor Laws," can be viewed as both a cause of these groups' economic marginalization and a tool that activists use to promote their social rights. In the course, we will consider this "double-edged" character of US poverty law through a close examination of that law's intersections, both historical and contemporary, with the socioeconomic status and lived experience of America's most resource-limited groups.
We will begin with an overview of federal programs that provide a "safety net" for all citizens. We will then turn to the groups enumerated above, and consider where they have stood with respect to the distribution of the nation's wealth, its "universal" safety net, a nd the particular laws and policies that have been directed at them. The course will be taught as a workshop with the objective of giving students a solid grounding in both the content and differential impact of US "poverty law." In addition to readings, short reponse papers, and oral exercises, the course will require each student to do a longer paper or group presentation on a course theme.