Maxwell scholars publish book on public policy and the life course
Janet M. Wilmoth
and Andrew S. London, two professors from the Maxwell School’s Department of
Sociology, the Aging Studies Institute and the Center for Aging and Policy
Studies, co-edited a new book “Life-Course Implications of U.S.
Public Policies” (Routledge, 2021). The 11 chapters in the book by leading scholars
of aging and the life course are written to be accessible to a broad range of
audiences. Collectively, they encourage readers to systematically consider the
influence of public policies and social programs on lives, aging and the life
course. Wilmoth and London hope that this volume will meet two main goals: to foster
an appreciation of how interrelated public policy influences condition the life
course; and to demonstrate how the life-course perspective and cumulative
inequality theory can serve as tools to re-shape contemporary public policy debates.
Ultimately, they are advocating for social programs that respond to the needs
of individuals across the life course.
In the foreword,
authored by Gerald B. Cramer Faculty Scholar in Aging Studies Jennifer Karas
Montez, and three distinct chapters, five Maxwell professors, and one sociology
Ph.D. student contribute to a discussion of how public polices affect everyone
through intended and unintended consequences over the short- and long-term.
Their specific contributions to this book include an examination of the historical
development of U.S. public policies and their relation to the life course, the variable
influences of public policies related to food and nutrition across the life
course, and how public policies—or the lack thereof—shape grandparental care
In Chapter 1, “An
Introduction to Life-Course Perspectives on Public Policies,” Wilmoth and
London review the history of U.S. public policy development, starting with
policies and associated programs that emerged out of President Theodore Roosevelt’s
New Deal. That early wave of policy and program development was bolstered by President
Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of a “War on Poverty.” According to Wilmoth and
London, policies can generate or ameliorate inequalities in the United States through
cumulative processes that play out differently on the basis of gender, race,
ethnicity, immigrant status, ability and sexual orientation.
In Chapter 6,
“U.S. Food and Nutrition Policy Across the Life Course,” Professor of Public Administration
and International Affairs Collen M. Heflin evaluates the development of U.S. food
and nutrition policy. Heflin argues that food insecurity across the life course
is often linked to other forms of precarity. She also examines the temporary
nature of food assistance programs in relation to age-related life-course
transitions. Heflin maintains the gaps in coverage at critical periods of children’s
development have long-term implications for health and well-being.
In Chapter 10,
“How Social Policies Affect Grandparent Care Work,” University Professor of Sociology
Madonna Harrington Meyer and sociology Ph.D. student Amra Kandic examine the
nexus of public policies and care work by grandparents. In the United States, grandparents
provide a lot more care than their counterparts in other countries, and there
is great deal of variation in grandparental care work by race, class and
gender. Harrington Meyer and Kandic use data from in-depth interviews with
grandparents to illustrate how the lack of federal policies and the use of
poverty-based criteria to determine access to social welfare programs shape demands
for, and experiences of, their care work.