Spring 2018 - 60577 - PA 380L – Topics in Public Policy and Law | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Spring 2018 - 60577 - PA 380L – Topics in Public Policy and Law

America's Struggling Middle Class

Description of the course: 

This course will focus on a variety of subjects that explore why America’s middle-class struggles to achieve the American Dream. Topics we will explore: how labor laws have helped create and maintain the income inequality gaps, how housing laws have helped create economically (and racially) segregated neighborhoods, and how education laws make it harder for high school and college students to graduate and be prepared to succeed in the current labor market. Middle-income families are no longer the majority of American households. A steady succession of federal and state laws and policies (especially labor, consumer lending, housing and tax policies) have destroyed the middle-class. We now have enormous income and wealth inequality gaps between average Americans and the country’s richest households.  

The focus will be on ways laws and policies can help reverse the economic fortunes of Americans who aspire to become and remain middle-class. Despite the heavy policy-focus of this course, you will be required to propose concrete solutions to the problems (housing, education, financial services, employment, etc.) facing the middle class. 


Requirements and expectations: 

Punctual class attendance is mandatory. Poor class attendance will negatively affect the final grade, which will be calculated based on the following components (all require adherence to stated specifications TBA in the course syllabus):

Class participation:

20% of the final grade includes mandatory punctual weekly class attendance, speaking in every class, participating in group exercises/projects, and posting several written comments demonstrating engagement with and reactions to course readings on Twitter and/or in Canvas.

Popular Press Articles:  

10% of the final grade will be from posting recent topical news articles on Twitter and/or in Canvas.

Two Written Papers:

25% of the final grade is a short opinion piece written utilizing a specific format and process, and

45% of the final grade is the final written project, requiring adherence to syllabus specifications (minimum 20 pages).


No textbook is required. Readings will be of diverse types and may include excerpts from books, law review articles, government reports, empirical studies, public statistics, interactive websites, videos, and popular press writings (including news articles or blog entries). All readings will be posted in weekly Canvas Modules consisting of about three to eleven website links or .pdf/other documents per week. Also prior to every class meeting, in order to facilitate the weekly dynamic in-room small group discussions, students should allow some time after their weekly readings to fully digest the material themselves, and then a little time the evening or morning before class, to read and carefully consider about 5-15 comment and reaction postings in Canvas which relate to that week’s course readings.


TNH 2.123