College Minor in Inequality, Social Problems, and Change

The School of Social Service Administration (SSA) is offering a minor, Inequality, Social Problems, and Change, exclusively for students in the UChicago College. The minor will provide students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the nature of inequality as it takes shape in pivotal societal institutions and to formulate feasible pathways for reducing inequality and improving quality of life.

Students will learn:

1.  that inequality is among the most critical social problems of our times. This minor will provide students with foundational knowledge about the nature and ramifications of social inequality in its various forms, including economic, racial, gender, and class. Students will be grounded in an understanding of the drivers and sources of different types of injustice and how they are connected to various forms of structural disadvantage.

2.  how to link theory and action. This minor will help students transform conceptual knowledge into action by learning about a range of strategies that can be used to address disparities. All courses in the minor attend to social change, ranging from offering hands-on experience in addressing inequality on the ground-level to interrogating the relative merits of concrete and empirical avenues for effecting change. 

3.  multilevel and multisystem approaches to mitigating social inequality. Impacting social inequality requires taking action at multiple levels – individual, family, community, organizational, and societal, and in multiple systems – education, criminal justice, immigration, labor market, health, and social welfare. The benefits of studying with students from a range of majors will further facilitate multilevel, multisystem thinking, with the explicit goal of effecting change to reduce social inequality.

Inequality, Social Problems, and Change will examine the underlying causes and consequences of—and innovative solutions to—society’s most pressing social problems. Courses focus on the interconnectedness of individuals, families, and communities, and emphasize the ways in which societal and structural forces intervene in the lives of marginalized groups, sometimes producing improvements while other times resulting in unintended negative effects. The minor places particular weight on understanding social issues that disproportionately affect marginalized and disadvantaged populations along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, migration status, national origin and identity. Moreover, the minor will help students understand the ways in which social markers, individually and collectively, influence inequity domains such as mass incarceration, immigration policy, access to health care, political power and participation, and physical and mental health. The minor will go beyond demonstrating that such inequalities exist to equally focus onreal world interventions and their potential to mitigate and/or disrupt existing inequalities.

While the Inequality, Social Problems, and Change minor is complementary to the College’s social science majors, it stands apart in not only offering rigorous empirical evidence of an array of complex inequalities but also equally emphasizing the role of applied interventions at multiple levels to disrupt or mitigate systems fueling inequality.

This minor is open to all majors
College students in any field of study may complete a minor in Inequality, Social Problems, and Change. Coursework is designed to complement the knowledge students gain in their majors across many disciplines, including public policy, economics, law and society, and sociology. The minor can also provide a background for medical school, the allied health professions, the study of law with an emphasis on social justice and human rights, and doctoral work in disciplines that focus on inequality, social justice, mental health and health.  

Course requirements
The Inequality, Social Problems, and Change minor requires a minimum total of five approved courses. Students take one required foundation course and choose a minimum of four approved electives. All four electives can be SSA-offered College courses, or students may take three SSA College electives and a fourth approved SSA graduate class or elective in another department. (Students will be given credit toward the minor for approved courses that they completed before the launch of this minor.)

Courses in the minor may not be double counted with the student’s major(s), other minors, or general education requirements. Courses in the minor must be taken for quality grades.

See the current course list.

Declaring the Minor is Inequality, Social Problems, and Change 
Students who elect the minor must meet with the Faculty Director for the minor before the end of Spring Quarter of their third year to declare their intention to complete the minor. The Director’s approval for the minor program should be submitted to a student’s College adviser by the annual deadline.

Faculty Director

Susan Lambert, Associate Professor
School of Social Service Administration
773-702-1143