New Article: Marc L. Roark, Homelessness at the Cathedral, SSRN 2014. Abstract below:
This Article argues that legal restraints against homeless persons are resolved by applying certain nuisance-like approaches. By drawing on nuisance restraints that adopt property-based and social-identity information, courts and decision-makers choose approaches that create conflict between homeless identities and adopted social identities. These approaches tend to relegate the social choice of whether to tolerate homeless persons to one of established social order (property) or broadly conceived notions of liberty (constitutional rights or due process rights). This Article argues for a broader conception of social identity, which may force parties to internalize certain costs of action, tolerate certain uses, or abate the full range of property rights that the law would otherwise allow in different social settings. Considering the question of “undesirable” uses of space — both on private and public land — helps articulate a narrative of property that moves beyond the rhetoric of economics-bound entitlements and affords a broader, more honest characterization. Conceived in this way, property entitlements represent information about how society defines, refines, enforces, and rejects its collective identity through the legal recognition of property entitlements.
New Article: Jonathan D. Ostry et al., Redistribution, Inequality, and Growth, IMF (Feb. 2014). Abstract below:
The Fund has recognized in recent years that one cannot separate issues of economic growth and stability on one hand and equality on the other. Indeed, there is a strong case for considering inequality and an inability to sustain economic growth as two sides of the same coin. Central to the Fund’s mandate is providing advice that will enable members’ economies to grow on a sustained basis. But the Fund has rightly been cautious about recommending the use of redistributive policies given that such policies may themselves undercut economic efficiency and the prospects for sustained growth (the so-called “leaky bucket” hypothesis written about by the famous Yale economist Arthur Okun in the 1970s). This SDN follows up the previous SDN on inequality and growth by focusing on the role of redistribution. It finds that, from the perspective of the best available macroeconomic data, there is not a lot of evidence that redistribution has in fact undercut economic growth (except in extreme cases). One should be careful not to assume therefore—as Okun and others have—that there is a big tradeoff between redistribution and growth. The best available macroeconomic data do not support such a conclusion.
New Article: Margaret F. Brinig & Nicole Stelle Garnett, A Room of One’s Own? Accessory Dwelling Unit Reforms and Local Parochialism, 45 Urb. Lawyer 519 (2013). Abstract below:
Over the past decade, a number of state and local governments have amended land use regulations to permit the accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) on single-family lots. Measured by raw numbers of reforms, the campaign to secure legal reforms permitting ADUs appears to be a tremendous success. The question remains, however, whether these reforms overcome the well-documented land-use parochialism that has, for decades, represented a primary obstacle to increasing the supply of affordable housing. In order to understand more about their actual effects, this Article examines ADU reforms in a context which ought to predict a minimal level of local parochialism. In 2002, California enacted state-wide legislation mandating that local governments either amend their zoning laws to permit ADUs in single-family zones or accept the imposition of a state-dictated regulatory regime. We carefully examined the zoning law of all California cities with populations over 50,000 people (150 total cities) to determine how local governments actually implemented ADU reforms “on the ground” after the state legislation was enacted. Our analysis suggests that the seeming success story masks hidden local regulatory barriers. Local governments have responded to local political pressures by delaying the enactment of ADU legislation (and, in a few cases, simply refusing to do so despite the state mandate), imposing burdensome procedural requirements that are contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the state-law requirement that ADUs be permitted “as of right,” requiring multiple off-street parking spaces, and imposing substantive and procedural design requirements. Taken together, these details likely dramatically suppress the value of ADUs as a means of increasing affordable housing.
New Article: Eldar Shafir, Poverty and Civil Rights: A Behavioral Economics Perspective, 2014 U. Ill. L. Rev. 205. Abstract below:
The International Bill of Human Rights recognizes a universal entitlement to “the continuous improvement of living conditions.” A dignified existence is a common concern of modern civilization and of the social sciences. But the mindset that emerges when we have too little creates challenges that often impede the improvement of living conditions. Poverty is a shortage not merely of financial resources but of cognitive resources as well. When people are preoccupied with budgetary concerns, they have fewer mental resources to devote to other things. For the more wealthy, everyday budgetary considerations represent manageable intrusions. The wealthy have slack in their budget and can manage unexpected expenses with relative ease. The poor, on the other hand, have little slack: unexpected expenses require giving up essentials, like rent payments or utility bills, and making frequent and difficult tradeoffs. The frequent challenges and heightened stakes eat up comparatively more of the poor’s mental resources, leaving less mind for other problems.
This Article employs a suitcase metaphor for people’s budgeting. The wealthy have a “big suitcase” which allows them to pack modest items casually. The poor have a “small suitcase” which must be packed intently and with great care. The packer of a small suitcase must carefully consider the size of each new item, and what can be removed each time they want to put something in.
The Article describes the results of empirical research done by the author and his colleagues into decision making under conditions of plenty and of scarcity. Among the topics examined in the studies are the impact of easier versus more imposing financial challenges on cognitive capacity, the psychology of borrowing, and the potential impact of financial concerns on other, nonfinancial behaviors.
Scarcity impacts a person not only directly, as wants or needs go unfulfilled, but also indirectly, as we struggle to make do with less. Persistent financial concerns impose a cognitive load on a limited bandwidth, which can impinge on other aspects of life, and can create poverty traps. The solution for alleviating the problem cannot be to reduce the already modest needs of the poor, nor to try to increase our inherently limited bandwidth. When the suitcase cannot be enlarged through higher wages or wealth transfers, the next option is to facilitate packing. By creating a more reliable, stable, and forgiving context, which the wealthy already enjoy, the everyday management of life under scarcity can be made easier, some bandwidth liberated, and costly mistakes and their menacing consequences reduced. This approach may bring us closer to the delivery of the universal entitlement to “the continuous improvement of living conditions.”
New Article: Eric M. Zolt, Inequality in America: Challenges for Tax and Spending Policies, 66 Tax L. Rev. 1101 (2013). Abstract below:
The goal of this article is to provide a guide to addressing tax and spending policies in an era of increasing inequality of income and wealth. This is challenging because it requires a good understanding of inequality and economic mobility, the changing role of taxes and government social spending, the constraints on policy options, and the possible misconceptions that may influence tax and spending policies.
Inequality in the United States has increased dramatically over the last 30 years. Perhaps even more troubling than the rise in inequality may be the persistence of high levels of poverty and the decline in economic mobility. The same thirty-year period during which inequality has increased, poverty levels have not declined, and economic mobility has decreased has seen major changes in fiscal policy. Tax law changes have altered the relative tax rates, the relative revenue contributions from different tax instruments, and the tax burdens of different income groups. Government spending on social programs has increased substantially, but perhaps not in ways one might expect. The United States likely has a smaller percentage of government social spending going to the needy than other developed countries. In recent decades, an increasingly larger percentage of social spending has been directed to the elderly (without regard to need) and to the upper-half of the income distribution through tax subsidies for healthcare, education, housing, and retirement savings.
The essential first step in shaping fiscal policy is to identify clearly the relative priorities among reducing inequality, reducing poverty, and increasing economic mobility. Tax and spending policies will differ depending on the weight given each of these objectives, and especially in a world of relatively limited resources, the government needs to make difficult choices. Perhaps the most significant implication of this reality is that it may be time to stop thinking about increasing the income tax burden on the wealthy as the only, or perhaps even the primary, way to increase funding for social spending programs. The United States may need less progressive (or even regressive) taxes to fund more progressive spending programs.
New Article: David A. Super, A New New Property, 113 Colum. L. Rev. 1773 (2013). Abstract below:
Charles Reich’s visionary 1964 article, The New Property, paved the way for a revolution in procedural due process. It did not, however, accomplish Reich’s primary stated goal: providing those dependent on government assistance the same security that property rights long have offered owners of real property.
As Reich himself predicted, procedural rights have proven largely ineffectual, especially for low-income people. In the half-century since he wrote, growing wealth inequality and repeated cutbacks in antipoverty programs have produced the pervasive disempowerment he predicted, but concentrated in one segment of society. This is incompatible with a healthy democracy.
Reich found that government largesse had become functionally equivalent to more traditional forms of property. Other analogies to property concepts can also protect low-income people, supporting recognition of the most important assets low-income people have, many of which are relational rather than tangible.
Like long-time trespassers obtaining ownership rights through adverse possession, families that have long lived together in this country should be able to continue doing so despite the unlawful immigration status of some of their members. The law should value the communities that offer mutual support to low-income people in much the same way as it does common interest communities. Principles of equity that long shielded less sophisticated people against sharp operators should be revived to protect low-income people’s homes against abusive foreclosures. And modern Takings Clause doctrine should recognize subsistence government benefits as property.
A regime of property law that secures that which is most essential to the well-being of a broad swath of society, rather than just those items disproportionately held by the wealthy, will best promote social, economic, and political participation by all people.
The articles are here:
Sara Rankin, A Homeless Bill of Rights (Revolution), working paper 2014. Abstract below:
This Article examines an emerging movement so far unexplored by legal scholarship: the proposal, and in some states, the enactment of a Homeless Bill of Rights. This Article presents these new laws as a lens to re-examine storied debates over positive and social welfare rights. Homeless bills of rights also present a compelling opportunity to re-examine rights-based theories in the context of social movement scholarship. Specifically, could these laws be understood as part of a new “rights revolution”? What conditions might influence the impact of these new laws on the individual rights of the homeless or the domiciled? On American rights culture and consciousness?
The Article surveys current efforts to advance homeless bills of rights across eight states and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and evaluates these case studies from a social movement perspective. Ultimately, the Article predicts that these new laws are more likely to have an incremental social and normative impact than an immediate legal impact. Even so, homeless bills of rights are a critical, if slight, step to advance the rights of one of the most vulnerable segments of contemporary society. Perhaps as significantly, these new laws present an opportunity for domiciled Americans to confront our collective, deeply-rooted biases against the homeless.
Sara Rankin, Invidious Deliberation: The Problem of Congressional Bias in Federal Hate Crime Legislation, Rutgers L. Rev. forthcoming. Abstract below:
The intersection of power and prejudice can control the shape of statutory law, and yet a dearth of legal scholarship investigates it. Invidious Deliberation addresses that deficit. It tackles the problem of prejudice in Congressional deliberations at a particularly critical point: when Congress decides which groups to protect under federal hate crime legislation. The Article contends that Congress’s own bias may exclude the most vulnerable groups from hate crime protection.
To illustrate the point, this Article systematically reviews over two decades of Congressional decisions with respect to expansions of the Hate Crime Statistics Act, a “gateway” for groups seeking protection under federal hate crime legislation. The review concludes that Congress exhibited greater resistance to constructing animus against gays, lesbians, and the homeless as morally or legally wrong, especially in comparison to the other covered groups. Invidious Deliberation argues this Congressional resistance is not attributable to an equitable, principled deliberation process; instead, it is an expression of “unrecognized” bias against unpopular groups. To mitigate the impact of Congressional bias, this Article proposes that Congress explicitly and consistently use a set of principled criteria — such as suspect classification factors — to assess candidate groups.
Two new articles are getting a significant amount of media attention:
1. Raj Chetty et al., Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States, NBER Working Paper 19843 (2014).
2. Raj Chetty et al., Is the United States Still the Land of Opportunity? Recent Trends in Intergenerational Mobility?, NBER Working Paper 19844 (2014).
The authors have a nice website, The Equality of Opportunity Project, with links to executive summaries, slides, maps, and the extensive media coverage. [The media coverage includes helpful summaries as well as some misleading takes or choices of what to emphasize.]