USC Price School of Public Policy

Social Justice Specialization

This specialization focuses on understanding the set of factors that contribute to a broad range of disparities (or inequities) and the challenges that exist when managing, planning, and policy making among diverse populations. Courses focus on the theories and the analytic tools that are needed to assess issues in social justice.


The Social Justice Specialization consists of 12 units: 4 units of a core course, 4 units of a methodology course, and 4 units of an elective course.

  • Core Course: PPD 599a Seminar in Social Justice and Public Policy (4 units)
  • Methodology Course: PPDE 661b Methods for Equity Analysis (4 units) or PPD 616 Participatory Methods in Planning and Policy (4 units)
              a These PPD 599 courses will be assigned different prefix numbers in the near future under the PPDE prefix
              b PPDE 661 Methods for Equity Analysis requires the prerequisite class of PPD 558 Multivariate Statistical Analysis

Core and Methodology Course Descriptions

PPD 599 Seminar in Social Justice and Public Policy:
The politics of public policy is, as often as not, driven by competing claims about what is the right thing to do. Dueling notions of individual liberty and private property are often set against collective notions of the collective good. Where do these ideas come from, and what effect do they have on our professions?

In this course, students learn:

  • The major theories of social justice prevalent in the US and globally;
  • How these theories of social justice influence policy, urban planning, and public administration;
  • How to bridge theories and ideas about justice in your own professional identity and practice.

PPD 599 Methods for Equity Analysis:
This course provides examples of how to analyze disparities and inequities in society. Topics include analyzing changes in the income distribution and the segregation of metropolitan populations. Students also learn causal inference techniques to assess the efficacy of policies that have been enacted to reduce disparities in society. Policy issues include housing, access to financial capital, education, and the environment.

PPD 616 Participatory Methods in Planning and Policy:
Since the 1960s the legal requirements for public access and consultation in decision making are now universal, and we are observing continuing experimentation and innovation around citizen engagement. In this course, students examine how to link the purposes of public participation to the designs and techniques used for citizen engagement.

Electives Course

A four unit elective course drawn from the following courses:

  • PPD 606 – Urban Health Policy
  • PPD 616 – Participatory Methods in Planning and Policy
  • PPD 617 – Urban Demography and Growth
  • PPD 618 – Housing Facilities and Community Development
  • PPD 628 – Urban Planning and Social Policy
  • PPD 686 – U.S. Immigration Policy
  • PPDE 663 – Media for Policy Change
  • COMM 653 – Research, Practice & Social Change
  • MST 560 – Readings on Race and Ethnicity (4, FaSp)
    • Exploration of research on race and ethnicity in the United States as it pertains to political, social, economic, cultural and historical issues.
  • AMST 580 – Readings in Cultural Studies (4, FaSp)
    • Seminar in theoretical approaches to cultural studies, with an emphasis on the analysis of race, gender, sexuality, and class in the U.S.
  • SOCI 552 – Sex and Gender in Society
  • PPD 690 – Alternative Dispute Resolution

Please note: The AMST and SOCI are PHD classes. American Studies has limited the number of master students per semester in their courses to 2 per course.

For more information:

If you are interested in learning more about the Social Justice Specialization, please e-mail your questions to Julie Kim at