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What two social policies have impacted your life or the life of someone you know?

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Because this question asks the student to discuss the policies’ impact on their own life or that of someone the student knows, it is important to identify the personal or immediately-related dimensions of that policy. The suggestions offered here concern policies that have recently had and continue to have a broad impact on many people in the United States, including students.

The following definition of “social policy” is provided by John M. Herrick in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Social Work:

Social policy is how a society responds to social problems. Any government enactment that affects the well-being of people, including laws, regulations, executive orders, and court decisions, is a social policy.

Among the common areas to which modern social policies are applied are health care, housing, employment, and immigration-residency status. Many such policies can be directed at “universal” solutions, such as making low-cost health care available to all.

One of the most far-reaching social policy changes came in 2010-2014 with the initial passage of ACA, the Affordable Care Act (full name, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) and the implementation of its basic provisions. Along with an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, the government-funded Medicaid program coverage was greatly expanded. While it does not actually provide universal health care, many see it as a step in that direction, and some criticize both its underlying assumptions and dimensions of its application in practice. Regardless, it is a policy that applies to almost every American.

Another social policy change that has affected many Americans is marriage equality. Changes to laws regarding marriage and civil unions first proceeded state by state, with Vermont removing barriers to same-sex civil unions in 2000 and Massachusetts doing the same for marriage in 2004. The U.S. Supreme Court extended the protection of law nationwide to same-sex marriages in June 2015, through the case of Obergefell v. Hodges (for Ohio). Justice Kennedy phrased the decision as “equal dignity in the eyes of the law” as guaranteed by the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

As many Americans come to the United States as immigrants and bring young children with them, a large number of minors and young adults find themselves in the category of “dreamers.” Through the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, under guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security (, determinations to defer removal of individuals was made on a case-by-case basis through individual application. While a January 2018 Preliminary Injunction restricted eligibility, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services continues to review DACA applications. This policy and related revisions have important applications for students, including eligibility for in-state tuition at state universities.

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