Course Spotlight: The Ethnography of Poverty and Inequality

Zoom screen with Dr. Earl Johnson speaking

PAM 4160, The Ethnography of Poverty and Inequality hosted Dr. Earl Johnson as a guest lecturer this week. Dr. Johnson received a Ph.D. from UCLA’s School of Social Work and Public Policy.  He also holds an A.M from the University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy and a BA in Political Science from The American University in Washington, DC. He received a Presidential appointment to serve in the Obama Administration as the Director of the Office of Family Assistance (ACF), within the US Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Administration of Children and Families. In this capacity, he was also the principal policy and programmatic manager for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.   

The students, Professor Waller and he discussed the importance of qualitative research, and how it provides a voice to vulnerable groups who are impacted by safety net programs. He emphasized that ethnography is vital for policy makers to understand the context of people’s lives and the daily challenges they face.

Throughout the semester, PAM 4160 students will continue to explore poverty and inequality in American society through the lens of ethnographic and other field-based research. They will read classic and contemporary texts, which have shaped the understanding of how social inequality and exclusion constrain people's daily lives and how groups develop innovative responses to these constraints.