Focus Area Friday: Social Policy

A focus area allows students to develop additional expertise in a specific area. The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program requires nine credits (three courses) and the Master of Public Policy (MPP) requires twelve credits (four courses) to complete a focus area. Students can choose a focus area within the Department, develop their own with the help of their advisor, or choose to remain a generalist.

The front of the Hartford Times Buildings with UConn flags in front of it
UConn Hartford campus on September 5, 2017. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Social policy focuses on how societies meet human needs and address challenges. Within a lifetime individuals are provided with services and support from a variety of sources including, but not limited to, the government, family, society and organizations. Through a focus area in social policy, students learn to identify and reduce inequalities when it comes to accessing services and support. 

Faculty specializing in this area include Mohamad Alkadry, Edith Barrett, Eric Brunner, Jennifer Dineen, Amy Donahue, Yusun Kim, Kerri Raissian, Bill Simonsen, Doug Spencer and Robert Wilson. Affiliated faculty member Kenneth Couch also specializes in this area. 

Coursework in this focus area include: 

  • PP 5346 Child and Family Policy (required): This course applies social science theory to the study of the family and is composed of three parts. The first covers the microeconomic tools and perspectives that will be utilized throughout the course. The second focuses on the theoretical models developed to inform our understanding of the family. A variety of topics will be covered including marriage and divorce, fertility, employment, and human capital. The final section will be devoted to the application of this theory in the policy arena. Subject matter in the application section will consist of, but is not limited to, income support, education, and child support policies. Domestic policies are the primary source for examples. Throughout the course, children and their outcomes are of particular concern.


  • PP 5303 Race and Policy: This course focuses on an examination of contemporary public policy through the lens of race. Students will begin by looking at the policy process, the racial and ethnic composition of the United States, the impact of immigration, and the malleability of race and ethnicity. Throughout the course, students will analyze past public policies that systematically disadvantaged African Americans compared to their White American counterparts through de jure discrimination and will discuss why policies designed to remedy the resulting disparities have seemed unsuccessful at closing the Black/White wealth gap. Finally, students will trace this gap to the public policy of slavery in the United States and brainstorm about ways how this gap can be reduced or eliminated through race-related public policy proposals regarding reparations for African American descendants of the enslaved.


  • PP 5347 Applied Policy Issues: This course provides an overview of substantive policy issues in the United States and integrates a variety of analytical techniques including regression analysis used in the evaluation of public policies. The principal objectives of the course are to 1) examine a broad range of substantive public policies such as education policy, housing policy, immigration and anti-poverty programs; 2) to develop analytical tools for understanding the intended and unintended consequences of policy interventions; and 3) to provide tools that will help students evaluate policies and make better informed policy decisions. The course is designed for students who plan to be practitioners and/or policy analysts, that is, who plan to analyze and make decisions about federal, state and local policies.


  • PP 5342 Policy Analysis: This course provides an introduction to the theoretical and empirical tools used in applied policy analysis. The course begins by considering the economic rationale for government intervention in markets including: externalities, public goods, asymmetric information, adverse selection, and equity considerations. The course then examines issues related to the funding provision of public goods and services including the theory and practice of taxation, fiscal federalism, voting on public goods and intergovernmental grants.


  • Other courses as approved from POLS, PUBH, SOCI, SSW