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Human Security: Poverty




Admissions requirements

Institutions in Time, Quantitative Research Methods, or permission from the instructor.


Human Security: Poverty is an inter-disciplinary, comparative study course in which students explore the multi-dimensional nature of poverty and the complex ways the poor navigate various socio-cultural, political, and economic landscapes in search of social protection, poverty alleviation, and upward mobility. Through detailed country case studies of “poor” groups spanning seven continents, students will undertake public policy analysis; combining rigorous analytics-quantitative and qualitative- to identify who make up the poor and what specific challenges they face, and to analyze the scope and effectiveness of specific policy instruments and informal arrangements. Students will be challenged to critically reflect on the meanings and experiences of poverty, on the root causes of inequality, and on the various formal and informal systems of multi-sectoral social protection offered through state welfare systems, non-profit organizations, the private sector, and community and family arrangements. Students will also learn about various approaches to monitoring and evaluating social protection efforts. Combining theory with practical peer-learning of comparative case study materials, students will be given the tools to contemplate the contours for promising approaches toward alleviating global poverty.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Be able to identify, represent and reflect on various dimensions of poverty and the different methods of measurement;

  • Be able to describe and critically evaluate predominant theories explaining poverty and inequality;

  • Be able to develop country case studies that identify, describe and measure poverty, that explore its specific historical and structural roots, and that showcase and evaluate different informal and formal social protection efforts and anti-poverty policies;

  • Be able to present and discuss case study findings, course literature and poverty simulation experiences through active seminar discussion and a student-led polling weekly presentation exercise;

  • Be able to critically and comparatively reflect and evaluate the (de)merits of various approaches to poverty alleviation and social protection.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught in two-hour interactive seminar sessions twice a week. Students will work in groups on an assigned country and poor population case study and undertake a poverty simulation. The first seminar of each week will comprise of an introductory lecture and discussions of assigned readings. The second seminar of each week will include student case study research task presentations and discussions of simulation experiences.


  • Class Participation (15%): Students will have ample opportunity to participate actively in class seminars. For example, students will be expected to contribute to class discussions and debates, to share opinions on readings, and to raise questions around lectures or student presentations. Each week students will also discuss their experiences with the poverty simulation exercise that we will be undertaking through the entire course.

  • Case Study Research Task Presentations (20%, ongoing): Students will be pre-selected into teams of three and each team will be assigned a case study country to research. Throughout the course, your team will research poverty and social protection efforts within your case study country. As a group, you will decide on a poor population of focus within your case study country. Each week you will be given a research task for your population and each week you will give a short presentation to the class of some of your most interesting findings. Through this approach, all students will build up rich comparative knowledge on poverty and social protection issues across a diversity of countries with respect to socio-political, economic, ecological and cultural environments. An interactive polling format will be used for all the presentations.

  • Essays (two, 20% each, Weeks 3 + 6): Students will submit two essays of no more than 2000 words each. The essays will require students to combine and reflect on class readings, class discussions, and case study research materials.

  • Take Home Exam (25%, Week 8): The take home exam will comprise of two parts: a poverty simulation exercise (10%) and an essay of max. 1500 words.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The literature for each seminar meeting will be provided digitally with the exception of the book “American Dream” which students must purchase. Students are required to bring all weekly readings to class. Weekly reading assignments should be completed for the first meeting of each week.

Book to purchase:

DeParle, Jason. (2005). American dream: Three women, ten kids, and a nation’s drive to end welfare. Penguin.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact



This course will experiment with a free web-based polling application for our regular in-class polls. Students are asked to please bring in their device of choice (smart phones, tablets, or computers) through which they have access to their email and can participate in an on-line quiz. Students are reminded, however, that these devices should be only used during the poll activity or when taking class notes. Anyone who does not have a device that can serve in this capacity, please contact the instructor in advance to borrow a device.

The readings assigned for our first class meeting are:

DeParle, Jason. (2005). American dream: Three women, ten kids, and a nation’s drive to end welfare. Penguin. (Part 1) (55 pages)

Spicker, Paul. (2007). “Definitions of poverty: Twelve clusters of meaning.” In Poverty: An International Glossary. London: Zed Books. Pgs.229-243 (14 pages)

Sahlins, Marshall. (1972) “The original affluent society.” In Stone Age Economics. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. (35 pages)

Sen, Amartya. (2001) Introduction. In Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pgs 3-12 (9 pages)