Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Understanding the Welfare System

A basic understanding/knowledge of introductory economics is recommended.
Welfare-reform legislation passed by the federal government in the mid-1990s heralded a dramatic step in the movement that has been termed the devolution revolution, which is again being discussed in the context of healthcare reform. The centerpiece of devolution is the transfer of more responsibilities for antipoverty programs to the states. We will explore the effects of these reforms and the role that devolution plays in the ongoing debates over the designs of programs that make up America's social safety net. In addition to discussing conventional welfare programs (e.g., Medicaid, food stamps, TANF, SSI) and other governmental policies assisting low-income families (EITC, minimum wages), we will examine the trends in governmental spending on anti-poverty programs and how our nation defines poverty and eligibility for income support. We will apply economics principles throughout to understand the effectiveness of America's antipoverty programs and their consequences on the behavior and circumstances of families.


Meet the Instructor(s)

Thomas MaCurdy

Thomas MaCurdy holds a joint appointment as a Professor of Economics and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research, a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a member of standing committees that advise the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Census, Congressional Budget Office, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Institute for Research on Poverty. His research examines domestic policies related to government income-support and entitlement programs, with its main focus on developing empirical findings relevant to the design and impacts of public assistance policies. He has published numerous articles and reports in professional journals and general-interest public policy venues, with a range of studies addressing the impacts of low-income support programs, income transfers, and tax systems on American families and economic activity. He earned his Ph.D. in 1978 from the University of Chicago, and he lives at Stanford.