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PPM-117M: Socioeconomic and Political Context

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Normed Course Outlines

PPM-117M: Socioeconomic and Political Context

Description: This six-topic module is designed to provide students with an understanding of key socioeconomic and political trends underway in many nations of the developed world with particular attention placed on the changing picture of the poor, the shifts in the family structure, and the increasing ethnic diversity. Students will be exposed to a wide range of opinion and analysis, and will develop the ability to examine key social issues critically, assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing social programs, and develop an insight into foreseeable future challenges and solutions.

Learning Outcomes: On successful completion of this module, students will have the skills and knowledge to utilize the concepts enumerated below and be able to understand and describe:

  • The impact on public policy and management decision making of race, gender and other group identities
  • Indigenous peoples
  • The immigrant society
  • Income inequality
  • Changing family structures  and their relation to gender, work, inequality, and poverty
  • Education, labour markets and low-skilled workers

Concepts to be learned: Pluralism; Pluralist State; Rights Talk; Social Diversity Thesis; Social Fragmentation; Aboriginal; Inherent Right to Self-Government; Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples; The Crown’s Fiduciary Relationship with Aboriginal Peoples; Demographics; Labour Migration; Absolute Inequality; Distributive-Redistributive Policies; Digital Divide; Generational Income Mobility; Gini Coefficient; Human Development Index (HDI); Identity Groups; Income Inequality; Inequality; Intra-Generational Mobility; Partial-coverage Program; Poverty; Quality of Life (QoL) Indicators; Social Indicators; Social Mobility; Stratification; Welfare Regimes; Welfare State; Social Capital; Employment Insurance (EI); Illiteracy; Discouraged Searchers; Employment Rate; Frictional Unemployment; Wage Subsidy.

Normed Topics in this Normed Course Outline

  1. Race, Gender and Other Group Identities' Impact on Decision-Making
  2. Indigenous Peoples
  3. The Immigrant Society
  4. Income Inequality
  5. Changing Family Structures: Gender, Work, Inequality, and Poverty
  6. Education, Labour Markets and Low-Skilled Workers

Like other normed topics on the Atlas, each of these has a topic description, links to core concepts relevant to the topic, learning outcomes, a reading list drawn from available course syllabi, and a series of assessment questions. 

Course Syllabi Sources for this Normed Course Outline: University of Toronto: PPG-1005; Harvard Kennedy School: SUP-205 & MLD-110B; Queen's University: MPA-879; University of Michigan (Ford): PUB POL 510; NYU (Wagner): PADM-2129 & PADM-2445; UCLA: PUB PLC M-270 & PUB PLC 225; Cornell: PAM-3040; University of Wisconsin (Lafolette): PA-883; Princeton: WWS-590

Recommended Readings:

Week 1:  Race, Gender and Other Group Identities' Impact on Decision-Making

Brief et al. 2000. Just doing business: Modern racism and obedience to authority as explanations for employment discrimination. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 81 (1).

Davidson, M. N. (2011). The End of Diversity as We Know It. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. Read: p. 47, comparing managing diversity with leveraging difference; pp. 76-83, the leveraging difference cycle (explaining Figure 1); and pp. 184-188, how leaders leverage difference (elaborating about Figure 6 on feedback loops). Note: The Davidson excerpts are about leveraging diversity for strategic advantage, and a nice complement to the Ely, Myerson and Davidson reading listed above.

Ely, RJ and Thomas, DA. (2001). Cultural diversity at work: The effects of diversity perspectives on work group processes and outcomes. Administrative Science Quarterly 46 (2).

Ely, R. J., Meyerson, D. E., and Davidson, M. N. (2006). Rethinking Political Correctness. Harvard Business Review, 84(9), 78-87.

Longmore, Paul. (2003). Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Chapter 13.

Mullainathan, S and Eldar Shafir (2012). Decision Making and Policy in Contexts of Poverty In The Behavioral Foundations  of Public Policy, Shafir, E., Ed. Page 281.

Week 2: Indigenous Peoples

Alcantara, C. (2007) “Explaining Aboriginal Treaty Negotiation Outcomes in Canada: the Cases of the Inuit and the Innu in Labrador,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 40, No. 1: 185-207

Barsh, R. 1993. "Aboriginal Governance in the United States: A Qualitative Political Analysis."

Bunnell, Friesen and Hyung. 2006. "Indigination: the politics of being/becoming indigenous in Malaysia, New Zealand, and Canada."

Henson, Eric and Jonathan B. Taylor , Catherine E. A. Curtis , Stephen Cornell, Kenneth W. Grant , Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph P. Kalt, Andrew J. Lee. The State of the Native Nations: Conditions under U.S. Policies of Self-Determination. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. 2007. Chapters 1-4, 6-7

Kuokkanen, R. (2011) "From Indigenous Economies to Market-Based Self-Governance: A Feminist Political Economy Analysis," Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 44, No. 2: 275-297

Miller, Robert. 2012. Reservation “Capitalism”: Economic Development in Indian Country (Santa Barbara: Praeger). Chapters: 1-4

Week 3: The Immigrant Society

Borjas, George. 1999. Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Chapters 4-5.

Borjas, G. J., Freeman, R. B., Katz, L. F., DiNardo, J., & Abowd, J. M. (1997). "How much do immigration and trade affect labor market outcomes?" Brookings papers on economic activity, 1-90.

Frenette, Marc and Rene Morissette. (2003) “Will they ever converge: Earnings of immigrant and Canadian-born workers over two decades.” Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series, Statistics Canada, Ottawa.

Massey, Douglas S. "International migration at the dawn of the twenty‐first century: The role of the state." Population and Development Review 25.2 (1999): 303-322.

Mattoo, Aaditya, Ilena Christina, and Çağlar Özden Neagu. 2008. “Brain Waste? Educated Immigrants in the US Labor Market.” Journal of Developmental Economics 87: 255-269.

Ottaviano, Gianmarco I.P., and Giovanni Peri. 2012. “Rethinking the Effect of Immigration on Wages”, Journal of the European Economic Association 10: 152-97.

Oreopoulos, Philip. “Why Do Skilled Immigrants Struggle in the Labour Market? A Field Experiment with Sixty Thousand Resumes.”

Picot, Garnett. (2008) “Immigrant Economic and Social Outcomes in Canada: Research and Data Development”. Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series #319, Statistics Canada, Ottawa.

Reitz, Jeffrey G. (2011) "Pro-immigration Canada: Social and Economic Roots of Popular Views." IRPP Study, no. 20. Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Sweetman, Arthur and Abdurrahman (2007) “First and Second Generation Immigrant Educational Attainment and Labor Market Outcomes: A Comparison of the United States and Canada” Research in Labor Economics, 27, 215-70.

Sweetman, Arthur and Garnett Picot (2012) “Making It in Canada: Immigration Outcomes and Policies” IRPP Study No. 29, pp. 1-42.

Wilson, R., Landolt, P, Shakya, Y., Galabuzi, G., Zahoorunissa, Z, Pham, D., Cabrera, F. & Joly, M. (2011) Working rough, living poor: Employment and income insecurities faced by racialized groups and their impact on health. Toronto, ON: Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services:

Week 4: Income Inequality

Autor, D. H. (2014). "Skills, education, and the rise of earnings inequality among the ‘other 99 percent’." Science, 344(6186), 843-851.

Bertrand, Marianne and Sendhil Mullainathan (2004). “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination,” American Economic Review, 94(4), 991-1013

Chen, Wen-Hao, John Myles, Garnet Picot (2011) “Why Have Poorer Neighbourhoods Stagnated Economically while the Richer Have Flourished? Neighbourhood Income Inequality in Canadian Cities?” Urban Studies.

Fortin, N. M., & Lemieux, T. (1997). "Institutional changes and rising wage inequality: is there a linkage?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, 75-96.

Fortin, Nicole, David A Green, Thomas Lemieux, Kevin Milligan, and W. Craig Riddell (2012) Canadian Inequality: Recent Developments and Policy Options Canadian Public Policy 38(2): 121-145

Hulchanski, John David. The three cities within Toronto: Income polarization among Toronto's neighbourhoods, 1970-2005. Toronto: Cities Centre, University of Toronto, 2010.

Jackson, Lois, Lynn Langille, Renee Lyons, Jean Hughes, Debbie Martin, and Viola Winstanley. (2009) “Does moving from a high-poverty to lower-poverty neighbourhood improve mental health? A realist review of Moving to Opportunity.” Health & Place 15: 961–970.

Jencks, Christopher. 2002. “Does Inequality Matter?” Daedalus 131: 49-65.

Mishel, L., & Sabadish, N. (2012) "CEO Pay and the Top 1% -- How Executive Compensation and Financial-sector Pay have fueled Income Inequality." Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief #331.

Oreopoulos, Philip. (2008) “Neighbourhood Effects in Canada: A Critique” Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 34(2), pages 237-258, June.

Piketty, Thomas and Emmanuel Saez. 2007. "How Progressive is the U.S. Federal Tax System?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(1): 3-24.

Smeeding, T. 2006. “Poor people in rich nations: The United States in comparative perspective.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 20:69–90

Stevens, Ann (1999). “Climbing out of Poverty, Falling Back in: Measuring the Persistance of Poverty over Multipe Spells,” Journal of Human Resources, 34(3), 557-588.

Week 5: Changing Family Structures: Gender, Work, Inequality, and Poverty

Baker, Michael and Marie Drolet (2010) “A New View of the Male/Female Pay Gap” Canadian Public Policy 36(4): 429-464.

Burton, Peter and Shelley Phipps (2011) “Families, Time, and Well-Being in Canada” Canadian Public Policy 37(3): 395-423.

Edin, Katheryn (2000). “What do Low Income Mothers Say About Marriage?” Social Problems, 47(1), 112-133.

Esping-Andersen, Gosta (2009) Chapter 3 “Adapting Family Policy to the Female Revolution” The Incomplete Revolution, pp. 45-110

Luxton, Meg. (2011) Changing Families, New Understandings, Vanier Institute of the Family: Ottawa.

Smeeding, Timothy M., et al. (2011) “Young Disadvantaged Men: Fathers, Families, Poverty, and Policy” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 635 (1): 6-21.

Week 6: Education, Labour Markets and Low-Skilled Workers

Blank, Rebecca. (2009) “Economic Change and the Structure of Opportunity for Less Skilled Workers.” Focus 26(2).

Boudarbat, Brahim & Lemieux, Thomas & Riddell, W. Craig (2010) “The Evolution of the Returns to Human Capital in Canada, 1980-2005,” CLSRN Working Papers, UBC Department of Economics, revised 30 Jan.

Corak, Miles. (2009) “Chasing the Same Dream, Climbing Different Ladders: Economic Mobility in Canada and the United States.” Washington, DC: Pew Charitable Trusts

Dobbie, Will and Roland Fryer. 2011. Are High-Quality Schools Enough to Increase Achievement Among the Poor? Evidence from the Harlem Children’s Zone. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 3(3): 158-187.

Frenette, Marc. (2007) “Why are youth from lower-income families less likely to attend university? Evidence from academic abilities, parental influences, and financial constraints.” Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series, Statistics Canada, Ottawa.

Goffman, Alice. (2009) “On the Run: Wanted Men in a Philadelphia Ghetto.” American Sociological Review 74(3): 339-357.

Hart, Betty, and Todd R. Risley. "The early catastrophe: The 30 million word gap by age 3." American educator 27, no. 1 (2003): 4-9.

McKinsey Global Institute (2012) An economy that works: Job creation and America’s future. Executive summary and Chapter 4.

Noguera, Pedro, and Joe Williams. "Poor schools or poor kids." Education Next (2010): 45-51.

Rouse, Cecilia Elena and Lisa Barrow. 2009. School Vouchers and Student Achievement: Recent Evidence, Remaining Questions. Annual Review of Economics

Zuberi, Dan. (2006) Differences That Matter: Social Policy and the Working Poor in the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. Chapter 7 (pp. 113-137).

Sample Assessment Questions:

1a) Define the following terms: Pluralism; Pluralist State; Rights Talk; Social Diversity Thesis; Social Fragmentation. 1b) M.N. Davidson writes about the need for leaders to "leverage difference." What does this mean, and what are its implications for public management? 1c) What is the "social diversity thesis?" Explain the importance of this concept for understanding the evolution of policy in advanced democracies.

2a) Define the following terms: Aboriginal; Inherent Right to Self-Government; Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples; The Crown’s Fiduciary Relationship with Aboriginal Peoples. 2b) What was the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples? Describe its importance in a one paragraph answer.

3a) Define the following terms:  Demographics; Labour Migration. 3b) “What are the appropriate objectives of Canadian (or the US) immigration policy? Discuss in a 1 page answer. 3c) Skilled immigrants continue to struggle in the labour market compared to comparably educated native-born Canadians. Discuss at least one possible explanation for this phenomenon in a one-page paper. 3d) Professor Irvin Studin has argued for increased immigration to Canada, with the objective of reaching a population of 100 million Canadians. In a 2-3 page paper, discuss this suggestion. You may take a "pro" or "con" position to the proposal, or you may choose to discuss the two sets of arguments without taking a side.

4a) Define the following terms: Absolute Inequality; Distributive-Redistributive Policies; Digital Divide; Generational Income Mobility; Gini Coefficient; Human Development Index (HDI); Identity Groups; Inequality; Inequality; Intra-Generational Mobility; Partial-coverage Program; Poverty; Quality of Life (QoL) Indicators; Social Indicators; Social Mobility; Stratification; Welfare Regimes; Welfare State. 4b) What is the Gini coefficient, and why is it important to understand this indicator for the analysis of income inequality. 4c) Some commentators suggest that a focus on income inequality is misguided, and that policy discourse should be focused on the measurement and alleviation of material poverty without reference to the gap between rich and poor. On a 2-3 page paper, discuss these arguments, either supporting or refuting them using real world evidence. 4d) Economists have identified a number of potential explanations for increasing income inequality in developed countries. Identify two of these explanations, and discuss how they may contribute to growing income inequality.

5a) Define the following term:  Social Capital 5b) What is the gender pay gap? In a short one-page paper, identify the major competing explanations for the persistence of a gender wage gap. 5c) Canada's population is aging. Discuss the implications of this demographic shift for any specific area of public policy in Canada, discussing the challenges (or opportunities) presented by an aging population and some of the policy options available to respond to them.

6a) Define the following terms: Employment Insurance (EI); Illiteracy; Discouraged Searchers; Employment Rate; Frictional Unemployment; Wage Subsidy. 6b) For any Canadian province, describe that province's strategy to promoting accessibility to higher education for youth from lower-income families. In a 2-3 page paper, discuss the different policy tools the government is using to promote accessibility and use evidence to evaluate the success of the policy bundle taken as a whole. 6c) The Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) is to some extent modeled on the American Earned Income Tax Credit. What is the WITB, and what are some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of relying on this type of policy to reduce poverty instead of higher minimum wages? You may in your discussion include an analysis of the interaction between earned income tax credits and minimum wages. 6d) What do we mean when we discuss "equality of opportunity?" What are some government policies that exist in Canada that are explicitly designed to promote "equality of opportunity?"

Page Created by: James Ban on 14 July 2015; updated by Ian Clark on 15 July 2015.


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School of Public Policy and Governance