ECON 2456 Economics of Poverty (Fall 2010)

InstructorRob Szarka
OfficeMontieth 440
Office HoursWed 2:30-3:30 p.m. or by appointment
Emailrobert.szarka "at"

Course Description

From the course catalog:

Analysis of poverty and income maintenance programs: theories of income distribution and comparison of public policies in the US and other countries.

Note that ECON 1201 & 1202, or the equivalent, are pre-requisites for this class.

Course Goals

Students who complete the assigned work and actively participate in class can expect to achieve the following:

Course Texts

The only required text is Poverty & Incomes Distribution (Second Edition) by Ed Wolff (ISBN 978-1405176606). In addition to Amazon and other bookstores, this text is available at the UConn Co-Op.

Another text you might want to buy for further background on the subject is Mwangi Kimenyi's Economics of Poverty, Discrimination, & Public Policy.


Final grades will be calculated using the following weights: 40% Homework, Class Participation, & Quizzes; 20% Midterm; 40% Final Exam

Homework, Class Participation, & Quizzes

There will be at least 8 problem sets, typically from the end-of-chapter questions and typically worth 10 points each. I will also give occasional short quizzes in class, typically worth 2 points each. A number of "bonus" assignments will also be available over the course of the semester.

No make-ups will be given for missed quizzes or assignments. (Homework will be accepted via email if it is sent before class and in one of the following formats: PDF, ODF, HTML, or plain UTF-8 text. Documents sent in a proprietary Microsoft format will be deleted unread.)

I will expect you to show up to class regularly (though life does occasionally make this a challenge), having completed the assigned reading and problems. You should also be ready to present your answers to homework questions at the whiteboard. I may pose short questions to specific students in class or for follow-up in a subsequent class. While I won't always take attendance, bonus points will be awarded for exceptional answers to questions or other contributions. Obviously, being present is a necessary condition for answering questions.

This portion of your final grade will be computed based on a total of 80 points. If your total points exceed 80, each additional 10 points will add 1 point to your final grade.


The midterm will take place during a regularly-scheduled class; it will test your understanding of the measurement of poverty and knowledge of historical trends. If you miss the midterm, or if your final exam score is higher than your midterm score, the final will count for 60% of your grade.

The final exam will take place according to the university's final exam schedule; it will test your understanding of relevant economic theory and your ability to synthesize what you have learned to evaluate public policy. Nota Bene: In accordance with university policy, make-up final exams will only be given with written permission from the Dean of Students.

As decided at our first class meeting, I will allow up to three students to write a paper and present it to the class in place of the final exam. If you would like to do so, send an email to me by September 23 with an abstract (1-2 paragraph summary) of your proposed paper and a partial bibliography. Be as creative as you like with the form of your project—it could be a business plan for a nonprofit organization, a policy proposal, a computer simulation, etc.—but there must be a written component that you will hand in at the scheduled final exam time. I will select the best of the proposals I receive and we will then negotiate any further details.

Learning Disabilities

If you have a diagnosed learning disability and will need special arrangements for classes or exams, please bring me a letter from the Center for Students with Disabilities as soon as possible. No special consideration can be given without documentation.


You're all adults and I'm confident you'll show me and one another respect by turning off your cell phone, setting your IM status to Away, keeping side conversations to a minimum, and disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Academic Integrity

From UCONN's Student Code:

A fundamental tenet of all educational institutions is academic honesty; academic work depends upon respect for and acknowledgement of the research and ideas of others. Misrepresenting someone else's work as one's own is a serious offense in any academic setting and it will not be condoned. Misconduct includes, but is not limited to, providing or receiving assistance in a manner not authorized by the instructor in the creation of work to be submitted for academic evaluation (e.g. papers, projects, and examinations); any attempt to influence improperly (e.g. bribery, threats) any member of the faculty, staff, or administration of the University in any matter pertaining to academics or research; presenting, as one's own, the ideas or words of another for academic evaluation; doing unauthorized academic work for which another person will receive credit or be evaluated; and presenting the same or substantially the same papers or projects in two or more courses without the explicit permission of the instructors involved. A student who knowingly assists another student in committing an act of academic misconduct shall be equally accountable for the violation, and shall be subject to the sanctions and other remedies described in The Student Code.

In particular, while you're free to discuss answers to the homework assignments with others, your written answer should be your own work.

Enough said.


See Readings for assignment dates and links to readings.

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