Category Archives: Books

New Book: “America’s Growing Inequality: The Impact of Poverty and Race”

New Book: America’s Growing Inequality: The Impact of Poverty and Race (Chester Hartman, ed., Lexington Books, 2014).  Overview below:

The book is a compilation of the best and still-most-relevant articles published in Poverty & Race, the bimonthly of The Poverty & Race Research Action Council from 2006 to the present. Authors are some of the leading figures in a range of activities around these themes. It is the fourth such book PRRAC has published over the years, each with a high-visibility foreword writer: Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. Bill Bradley, Julian Bond in previous books, Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Chicago for this book. The chapters are organized into four sections: Race & Poverty: The Structural Underpinnings; Deconstructing Poverty and Racial Inequities; Re(emerging) Issues; Civil Rights History.

Table of Contents after the jump…

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Publication Announcement: Poverty Law Textbook!

Poverty Law CoverI am very excited to report that Juliet Brodie, Clare Pastore, Ezra Rosser & Jeffrey Selbin, Poverty Law: Policy and Practice (2014) has been published by Aspen / Wolters Kluwer [The Amazon link is here].   The textbook is the first poverty law textbook to be published in more than a decade, the last book was the Nice/Trubek Poverty Law textbook (1997 with a 1999 supplement), and though there were a number of poverty law books in the 1970s, this has not been a crowded field.   We hope that many of you find the book a great resource and that the existence of such a book leads to more poverty law classes being offered.

I am going to not speak anymore on behalf of my co-authors (here is an interview Jeff did about the book), but I do want to say a bit more about both the book and about working on such a book.  First, let me say that putting together such a book is an eye-opening experience.  It requires reading a great number of articles, cases, and reports, looking for good items for including in the book as well as trying to make sure that things or areas were not overlooked, even though it is impossible in such an activity not to overlook things or to gloss over things that could have used more space.  So it has been a humbling and great learning experience.   It also involves tough choices as to coverage, organization, and depth.  It also can seem like it never ends—right now as I write this, I am doing so at some risk that I will not complete all that I want to complete in the chapter of the teacher’s manual (which we hope to finish at the end of this month) that I am working on now—which is why it was so thrilling to get my copy of the book in the mail this week.

When I was contemplating whether to work on a poverty law textbook, a colleague of mine told me that the most important consideration was whether I was going to get along with my co-authors.  And looking back, working together with Juliet, Clare, and Jeff has been by far the most valuable and enjoyable part of working on the book.  As the most junior person and only non-clinician on the book, it was a great to be able to learn from people who have much more experience and are committed social activists.  Though we worked on the book entirely through email, dropbox, and conference calls, doing the book allowed me to hear what they thought were the most important things about poverty and about particular programs.  And we talked a lot.  In my frequent desperate searches for a way to get a strong enough internet signal to call in to our call, I called in from a Pizza Hut in San Salvador, El Salvador, a Starbucks in Kyoto, Japan, another Starbucks in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as a failed effort to call from a desert shop in Antigua, Guatemala.  And Juliet, Clare, and Jeff forgave me, I think, for the times when the connection was poor or my toddler was talking in the background.  But there is no question that the highlight of the book was working with them and even if no one adopts it, it was still worthwhile for me because of that.

Poverty law can be a depressing class or topic.  Big wins are rare before the Supreme Court and the politics of blaming the poor continues to be quite prevalent (though the rising awareness of inequality offers some hope that the politics may change).  We tried to deal with the depressing nature of the class in part by ending the book with two chapters, one on economic approaches and another on human rights, which are a bit different from the standard narrative of a New Deal or Great Society program under threat.  But overall, I do not believe the book is depressing.  If anything, getting students to study this material, to take it seriously—despite Scalia’s views on the class—can be uplifting and rewarding.  There is a depressing part of the book for me, and it comes early on.  My portion of the dedication page is a dedication to Mario Castro Tablas, my father-in-law, who died at the end of last year as we finished up the last parts of the book.  My wife’s loss is tremendous and mine is only a fraction of that.  But while it may seem a bit pathetic to say this, after all who doesn’t have closer friends one’s own age, in many ways Mario was the best friend that I have had since law school.  My wife is from El Salvador and we try our best to live there most summers, the December holiday, and during any research leaves that I have.  We now have a house there, built by Mario in the year before his death, but for most of our visits before then, we lived with my in-laws.  And as anyone who has lived with their in-laws knows, that can be frustrating, but in my case the good dramatically outweighed any awkward moments (like running into the yard in boxers after a minor Earthquake as my soon to be in-laws ate breakfast).  So I am going to end this with a brief note I wrote after Mario died:

All my life, my grandfather has been my example of the type of husband I want to be, but in many ways Mario is my example of the type of father and man I want to be.  I am arrogant enough to say that he and I have many traits in common, some good and some bad.  We are, or were, both self-confident (to put it nicely), smart, stubborn, intellectually curious, and a bit machito.  But Mario was also more free with his emotions, more free to enjoy life (and to enjoy parties), and more able, even in rough circumstances, to embrace the beauty of the here-and-now.  He easily could relate to people on their level and, at the same time, he could be very deliberate in what he said when he wanted to make an important point, taking what could seem a painfully long time to make a point but doing so in a way that also showed respect for importance of thinking before speaking.  In short, he was and will always be somebody I deeply admire and, more importantly, someone I love immensely.  But though the feelings are still too raw for this to be true and my heart too weak, I hope to take comfort and joy in the fact that he is also still around me, for I can see him in Elvia [my wife], Mateo [my son], . . . and even in myself.

My part of this book is dedicated with love to Mario.


New Book: “Solomon’s Knot: How Law Can End the Poverty of Nations”

SKnotNew(ish) Book:  Robert D. Cooter & Hans-Bernd Schäfer, Solomon’s Knot: How Law Can End the Poverty of Nations (2012).

New Book: “When Government Helped: Learning from the Successes and Failures of the New Deal”

helpNew Book: When Government Helped: Learning from the Successes and Failures of the New Deal (Sheila Collins & Gertrude Goldberg eds. 2013).

New Book: “Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City”

Doing the Best I CanNew Book: Kathryn Edin & Timothy J. Nelson, Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City (2013).  Amazon link here.  Overview below:

Across the political spectrum, unwed fatherhood is denounced as one of the leading social problems of today. Doing the Best I Can is a strikingly rich, paradigm-shifting look at fatherhood among inner-city men often dismissed as “deadbeat dads.” Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson examine how couples in challenging straits come together and get pregnant so quickly—without planning. The authors chronicle the high hopes for forging lasting family bonds that pregnancy inspires, and pinpoint the fatal flaws that often lead to the relationship’s demise. They offer keen insight into a radical redefinition of family life where the father-child bond is central and parental ties are peripheral.

Drawing on years of fieldwork, Doing the Best I Can shows how mammoth economic and cultural changes have transformed the meaning of fatherhood among the urban poor. Intimate interviews with more than 100 fathers make real the significant obstacles faced by low-income men at every step in the familial process: from the difficulties of romantic relationships, to decision-making dilemmas at conception, to the often celebratory moment of birth, and finally to the hardships that accompany the early years of the child’s life, and beyond.

New Book: “Ain’t No Trust: How Bosses, Boyfriends, and Bureaucrats Fail Low-Income Mothers and Why It Matters”

New Book: Judith Levine, Ain’t No Trust: How Bosses, Boyfriends, and Bureaucrats Fail Low-Income Mothers and Why It Matters (2013).  Overview below:

Ain’t No Trust explores issues of trust and distrust among low-income women in the U.S.—at work, around childcare, in their relationships, and with caseworkers—and presents richly detailed evidence from in-depth interviews about our welfare system and why it’s failing the very people it is designed to help.

By comparing low-income mothers’ experiences before and after welfare reform, Judith A. Levine probes women’s struggles to gain or keep jobs while they simultaneously care for their children, often as single mothers. By offering a new way to understand how structural factors impact the daily experiences of poor women, Ain’t No Trust highlights the pervasiveness of distrust in their lives, uncovering its hidden sources and documenting its most corrosive and paralyzing effects. Levine’s critique and conclusions hold powerful implications for scholars and policymakers alike.

New Book: “Legacies of the War on Poverty”

New Book: Legacies of the War on Poverty (Martha J. Bailey & Sheldon Danzinger eds. 2013).  Overview below:


Many believe that the War on Poverty, launched by President Johnson in 1964, ended in failure. In 2010, the official poverty rate was 15 percent, almost as high as when the War on Poverty was declared. Historical and contemporary accounts often portray the War on Poverty as a costly experiment that created doubts about the ability of public policies to address complex social problems. Legacies of the War on Poverty, drawing from fifty years of empirical evidence, documents that this popular view is too negative. The volume offers a balanced assessment of the War on Poverty that highlights some remarkable policy successes and promises to shift the national conversation on poverty in America.

Featuring contributions from leading poverty researchers, Legacies of the War on Poverty demonstrates that poverty and racial discrimination would likely have been much greater today if the War on Poverty had not been launched. Chloe Gibbs, Jens Ludwig, and Douglas Miller dispel the notion that the Head Start education program does not work. While its impact on children’s test scores fade, the program contributes to participants’ long-term educational achievement and, importantly, their earnings growth later in life. Elizabeth Cascio and Sarah Reber show that Title I legislation reduced the school funding gap between poorer and richer states and prompted Southern school districts to desegregate, increasing educational opportunity for African Americans.

The volume also examines the significant consequences of income support, housing, and health care programs. Jane Waldfogel shows that without the era’s expansion of food stamps and other nutrition programs, the child poverty rate in 2010 would have been three percentage points higher. Kathleen McGarry examines the policies that contributed to a great success of the War on Poverty: the rapid decline in elderly poverty, which fell from 35 percent in 1959 to below 10 percent in 2010. Barbara Wolfe concludes that Medicaid and Community Health Centers contributed to large reductions in infant mortality and increased life expectancy. Katherine Swartz finds that Medicare and Medicaid increased access to health care among the elderly and reduced the risk that they could not afford care or that obtaining it would bankrupt them and their families.

Legacies of the War on Poverty demonstrates that well-designed government programs can reduce poverty, racial discrimination, and material hardships. This insightful volume refutes pessimism about the effects of social policies and provides new lessons about what more can be done to improve the lives of the poor.

New Book: “Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequality”

New Book: Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequality (David Card & Steven Raphael eds. 2013).


The rapid rise in the proportion of foreign-born residents in the U.S. since the mid-1960s is one of the most important demographic events of the past fifty years. The increase in immigration, especially among the less-skilled and less-educated, has prompted fears that the newcomers may have depressed the wages and employment of the native-born, burdened state and local budgets, and slowed the U.S. economy as a whole. Would the poverty rate be lower in the absence of immigration? How does the undocumented status of an increasing segment of the foreign-born population impact wages in the U.S.? In Immigration, Poverty and Socioeconomic Inequality, noted labor economists David Card and Steven Raphael and an interdisciplinary team of scholars provide a comprehensive assessment of the costs and benefits of the latest era of immigration to the U.S.

Immigration, Poverty and Socioeconomic Inequality rigorously explores shifts in population trends, labor market competition, and socioeconomic segregation to investigate how the recent rise in immigration affects economic disadvantage in the U.S. Giovanni Peri analyzes the changing skill composition of immigrants to the U.S. over the past two decades to assess their impact on the labor market outcomes of native-born workers. Despite concerns over labor market competition, he shows that the overall effect has been benign for most native groups. Moreover, immigration appears to have had negligible impacts on native poverty rates. Ethan Lewis examines whether differences in English proficiency explain this lack of competition between immigrant and native-born workers. He finds that parallel Spanish-speaking labor markets emerge in areas where Spanish speakers are sufficiently numerous, thereby limiting the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born residents. While the increase in the number of immigrants may not necessarily hurt the job prospects of native-born workers, low-skilled migration appears to suppress the wages of immigrants themselves. Michael Stoll shows that linguistic isolation and residential crowding in specific metropolitan areas has contributed to high poverty rates among immigrants. Have these economic disadvantages among low-skilled immigrants increased their dependence on the U.S. social safety net? Marianne Bitler and Hilary Hoynes analyze the consequences of welfare reform, which limited eligibility for major cash assistance programs. Their analysis documents sizable declines in program participation for foreign-born families since the 1990s and suggests that the safety net has become less effective in lowering child poverty among immigrant households.

As the debate over immigration reform reemerges on the national agenda, Immigration, Poverty and Socioeconomic Inequality provides a timely and authoritative review of the immigrant experience in the United States. With its wealth of data and intriguing hypotheses, the volume is an essential addition to the field of immigration studies.

New Book: “Those Damned Immigrants: America’s Hysteria over Undocumented Immigration”

New Book: Ediberto Román, Those Damned Immigrants: America’s Hysteria over Undocumented Immigration (2013).  Overview below:

The election of Barack Obama prompted people around the world to herald the dawning of a new, postracial era in America. Yet a scant one month after Obama’s election, Jose Oswaldo Sucuzhanay, a 31-year old Ecuadorian immigrant, was ambushed by a group of white men as he walked arm and arm with his brother. Yelling anti-Latino slurs, the men beat Sucuzhanay into a coma. He died 5 days later.
The incident is one of countless attacks—ranging from physical violence to raids on homes and workplaces to verbal abuse—that Latino/a immigrants have confronted for generations in America. And these attacks—physical and otherwise—are accepted by a substantial number of American citizens and elected officials, who are virulently opposed to immigrant groups crossing the Mexican border. Quick to cast all Latino/a immigrants as illegal, opponents have placed undocumented workers at the center of their anti-immigrant movement, and as such, many different types of native Spanish-speakers in this country (legal, illegal, citizen, guest), have been targeted as being responsible for increasing crime rates, a plummeting economy, and an erosion of traditional American values and culture.
In Those Damned Immigrants, Ediberto Román takes on critics of Latina/o immigration, drawing on empirical evidence to refute charges of links between immigration and crime, economic downfall, and a weakening of Anglo culture. Román utilizes government statistics, economic data, historical records, and social science research to provide a counter-narrative to what he argues is a largely one-sided public discourse on Latino/a immigration.

New Book: “Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions: Law, Policy and Practice”

New Book: Margaret Colgate Love, Jenny Roberts & Cecilia Klingele, Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions: Law, Policy and Practice (2013).

-Congrats to the authors!  =)