IN A SERIES OF EVENTS BEGINNING WITH the collapse of the mortgage market in 2007, the world faced the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression. From Athens to Tokyo, from Washington to London, from Beijing to Johannesburg, the teetering economy has destabilized governments, hindered growth, and raised fundamental questions about the relationship of economics, public policy, individual freedom, and social responsibility.
Even as the repercussions of the crisis ease, critical questions remain: Should governments adopt austerity programs or stimulate growth through greater public spending? Should the financial sector be more strictly regulated? What are the societal impacts of growing income inequality? How does the current economic crisis compare with past panics and macroeconomic transformations? Penn SSPF has devoted its inaugural year to exploring these questions.
THE POLITICS OF IMMIGRATION, with a tight focus on undocumented immigrants, runs hot and cold in Washington, D.C. Comprehensive reform, with some path to citizenship, rushed forward in the Senate, only to languish as the hardline opposition made its strength felt. Whatever the turns of the political wheel, however, the issue remains of critical longterm importance.
In its second programming year, SSPF examined not just the policy options for immigrantion reform, but also the impacts that recent waves of immigrants have had on the nation, including its labor and housing markets. The year culminated in a day-long conference on immigration and metropolitan revitalization.
SINCE THE LAUNCH OF THE WAR ON POVERTY 50 years ago, there has been no shortage of proposals to combat this persistent American problem, ranging from statist to community-centered, from universal to tightly focused on the poor themselves, and from Keynesian to neoliberal.
During the 2014-15 academic year, the Penn Social Science & Policy Forum took stock of the past and future of anti-poverty efforts, and their relation to economic opportunity more generally, both in the U.S. and globally. SSPF drew on expertise across disciplines to address not only the economic issues involved, but the social factors of race, class and gender, as well as the overwhelming political problem of gearing policy to the needs of the powerless.
The postdoctoral fellow for this theme year was Erica Dobbs.