Poverty & Inequality

Poverty and Inequality is a Program of Study. You must be accepted first to SSA and then by the Program of Study. SSA students apply to Programs of Study during their first year.


Despite more than a century of social welfare efforts in the United States—both public and private—poverty and inequality continue to present fundamental problems to society and polity. This program provides students with the basic academic knowledge and field experience needed to engage in efforts to alleviate poverty and inequality. The program will expose students to issues regarding poverty and inequality in both domestic and international settings, and will prepare students to work as program managers, policy analysts, and community advocates.

The Program

The Poverty and Inequality Program prepares students for careers at the front line of efforts to contend with the social problems associated with economic disadvantage and marginalization. 


Students interested in the Poverty and Inequality Program take the administrative concentration, two courses required for the program, and their choice of electives.

Students will learn about the structural conditions that shape economic opportunity, including the macro-dynamics of globalization, the politics of social welfare policymaking, the place of low-wage jobs in the labor market, the function of informal networks, and the role of helping systems in the community. Particular attention will be given to street-level practices in key institutions that shape opportunity and inequality (among them, human service organizations, workplaces, and communities).

Courses will also provide historical perspectives that enable students to assess the consequences of prior efforts to address poverty and inequality through legislative policymaking, social mobilization, advocacy, and social program delivery. Students will be encouraged to apply the lessons of past experiences to contemporary social problems.

Field Placement

Field placements have been selected to provide opportunities for students to get direct experience working in agencies that serve disadvantaged populations, advocate for policies that address poverty and inequality, and engage in poverty-relevant research. Most of the placements are designed for social administration students who are preparing for careers in social welfare policy analysis, organizational management and design, workforce development, community organization, and advocacy. However, students with a primary interest in clinical experience may select placements, in consultation with field and faculty advisors, that are most appropriate to their professional development.

Career Opportunities

Students completing the program will be prepared to assume leadership in the development and provision of policies, programs, and practices that address problems of poverty and inequality. These include careers in national, state, and local social welfare and human services agencies; community and national advocacy organizations; and firms and non-profit organizations that engage in consulting, organizational and community development, and policy.  

Contact Information

Evelyn Brodkin, PhD
Associate Professor
Poverty and Inequality Program