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Course Details

Course Number: 90-767

Welfare Policy Analysis

Units: 12

The purpose of this course is to develop an understanding of the major programs (both cash and in-kind) that are used to address poverty in the U.S. and an understanding of how these programs can be analyzed. Most of the analysis of these programs will be done using spreadsheet simulation. Some attention will also be paid to dynamic simulation.

At the end of the course you will know how the major welfare programs work, how to analyze those programs in the context of the broader set of programs with which they interact, and how to analyze new benefit programs. One of the goals of the course is for you to learn how to model income transfer systems using a spreadsheet. As a consequence you will learn not only about welfare programs in the U.S. and how they operate, but you will be learning more about the power of spreadsheets to do moderately sophisticated simulations. The kind of modeling that you will be doing is useful for modeling financial transactions in general. Prior knowledge of using spreadsheets for modeling is not required.

During the course of the semester, you will build a model of the present U.S. "welfare system". There will also be a paper required at the end of the term. The paper will be limited to 15 pages, excluding tables, figures, or charts. The paper will require that you analyze some problem in welfare. By the time we get there it will be clear that for domestic programs using a spreadsheet is one way of doing this. There are other ways, and as long as your solution is sufficiently complete and accurate, alternative methods are fine. If you are addressing programs or problems in other countries, different approaches may be more appropriate, although the principles of program design may still apply. The paper itself must be written in a competent and professional manner. Misspellings, faulty grammar, and shoddy proof-reading detract from the quality of the work.

There will also be a final exam. In the final exam you will be asked to write on two questions which will be drawn from a set of six. The full set of questions will be available two weeks before the exam.

*This course replaces 91-831

Gordon Lewis