News Article: Sheryl Gay Stolberg, On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps, New York Times, Sept. 4, 2013.
News Article: Sheryl Gay Stolberg, On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps, New York Times, Sept. 4, 2013.
New Article: Ilan Wurman, Note, Drug Testing Welfare Recipients as a Constitutional Condition, 65 Stan. L. Rev. 1153 (2013). Abstract below:
This Note challenges the prior and current scholarship on suspicionless drug testing of welfare recipients, and the Supreme Court’s special needs doctrine more broadly, by applying the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions to the cases. It contends that the Fourth Amendment’s special needs doctrine is insufficient, because conditioning welfare benefits on drug testing may fail the special needs test but still be a constitutional condition. This Note argues that, where the unconstitutional conditions doctrine could otherwise apply, the doctrine is in fact necessary to apply; that doing so resolves certain contradictions and fictions that currently exist in the Fourth Amendment doctrine, while better explaining some of the Fourth Amendment cases; and that conditioning welfare on drug testing is more likely to be constitutional under the unconstitutional conditions doctrine than under the current Fourth Amendment approach, which would instead stop the inquiry with the special needs doctrine.
New Article: Bridgette Baldwin, Shadow Works and Shadow Markets: How Privatization of Welfare Services Produces an Alternative Market, 34 Western New England L. Rev. 445 (2012). Abstract below:
The Author attempts to fuse Ivan Illich’s misplaced ideas of gender roles with how privatization of welfare services has legitimized a shadow economy and work through mandated community service jobs. The Article provides a historical perspective of how social services were handled, leading to the current cost/benefit legacy of welfare privatization utilized by the Wisconsin Works program (W-2). Wisconsin’s program requires women recipients to engage in volunteer work, creating a subsidized labor force for private agencies based on the presumption that work, even meaningless and menial tasks, establishes job-readiness for women on welfare. The Author suggests that we need to begin thinking about how to recreate the framework for providing public services. The community service component of W2 and its actual function powerfully demonstrates how W-2 mothers have become a reserve labor force. But at the same time the contours of W-2 make reserve labor status profitable, not for the mothers, but for the sub-contracted agencies. The relationship between W-2 mothers, the status of community service, and the position of sub-contracted agencies have generated a shadow market as a consequence of welfare privatization. The ways in which these women are held captive to a world without work, a world without skill building, and limited ways out become the grounds upon which sub-contracting agencies generate profit. Under the shroud of “cost effectiveness,” private agencies are reaping the financial windfall of “pimping” the state based on their ability to market their skills at converting welfare mothers into low-wage workers.
New Article: Lucille A. Jewel, Merit and Mobility: A Progressive View of Class, Culture, and the Law, SSRN 2012. Abstract below:
Rising income inequality and financial trauma in the middle class beg the question of whether social mobility, long a part of America’s narrative identity, is truly available to Americans residing in the lower rungs of society. This paper addresses the connection between culture and social mobility, looking particularly at how culture impacts social outcomes in America’s meritocratic educational system. Analyzing culture and cultural capital from a progressive perspective, this paper concludes that culture operates subtly, helping some retain or improve their existing position but interfering with the mobility of others. The rhetoric of individual merit, however, obscures the role that culture plays in reproducing existing social structures.
In the context of merit and mobility, this paper also analyzes class disadvantage as it relates to affirmative action. As the Supreme Court is set to decide another affirmative action case this term, we are reminded that barriers of disadvantage continue to prevent educational institutions from achieving acceptable levels of diversity. Often operating in tandem with economic and racial disadvantage, cultural disadvantage obstructs mobility in a powerful way. Accordingly, cultural disadvantage, captured using a robust set of socio-economic and race-conscious factors, should be something that institutions consider when formulating diversity plans. However, affirmative action plans, while necessary, cannot be the only solution to the problem. More radical and systemic solutions are needed to reboot social mobility in this country.
Part II of this paper provides a foundational understanding of progressive cultural theory, placing it in the context of the two opposing theories most often used to explain unequal outcomes in America: individual merit versus environmental/societal factors. Progressive cultural theory posits that unequal outcomes are not fully explainable by differences in individual merit. Rather, pre-existing cultural advantages help some advance, but for others, unequal structures produce cultural barriers that impede mobility. Relying upon recent social science research, Part III of this paper examines how culture and cultural capital interact with our merit based educational system; how cultural differences within the middle class impacts social mobility; and how culture interacts with pre-existing structures of racial inequality. As diversity within higher education mostly affects individuals in the middle class, Part IV analyzes what cultural disparities within the middle class mean for the affirmative action debate. Part IV concludes that the Supreme Court, in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, should reaffirm Justice O’Connor’s diversity rationale for using race-conscious measures to achieve a critical mass of minority students but also argues that we should not be trapped into a false choice between racial diversity or class-based diversity.
In grappling with the issues of disadvantage and mobility within the affirmative action debate, I ultimately conclude that the entire merit and selectivity system should be collapsed. Thus, Part V offers some suggestions for making our merit system less insular and more inclusive, including the salvo that successful professionals who have “won” the merit game take a hard look at ourselves and ask whether we are contributing to the trend toward oligarchy.
Op-Ed: Robert Rector [of the Heritage Foundation], Obama’s End Run on Welfare, National Review, Sep. 19, 2012.
New Article: Andre O. F. Loureiro, Can Conditional Cash Transfers Reduce Poverty and Crime? Evidence from Brazil, SSRN (2012). Abstract below:
Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) programmes are deemed to be effective measures at reducing poverty and income inequality in many developing countries. Another possible important consequence is its effect on criminal behaviour. This paper analyses a panel data set on crime rates and the Brazilian Bolsa Familia, the largest CCT programme in the world, in order to investigate these relationships and estimate the effect of these policies on crime rates. The related existing economic literature analysing general welfare programmes generally ignores the crucial endogeneity involved in the relationship between crime rates and social welfare policies, through poverty. Temporal heterogeneity in the implementation of the programme across the states is used to identify the causal impact of CCT programmes on poverty and criminality. States that reached the level of cash transfers expenditures proposed by the guidelines of the programme more promptly had a more significant reduction in poverty rates. Similar, but less robust results are found for crime rates as robbery, theft and kidnapping, while no significant effects were found for homicide and murder, indicating that property crime would be more sensitive to CCT programmes.
The op-ed that started the debate: Ron Haskins, The Myth of the Disappearing Middle Class, Wash. Post, Mar. 29, 2012. The responses include: (1) Jared Bernstein, The Myth of the Myth of the Disappearing Middle Class, On the Economy Blog, Mar. 30, 2012 and (2) Jodie Levin-Epstein, Is Marriage a Poverty Buster, Huffington Post, Apr. 10, 2012.
-Thanks to my colleague’s blog, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage, for the H/T!
New Article: Yonatan Ben-Shalom, Robert A. Moffitt & John Karl Scholz, ”An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Anti-Poverty Programs in the United States,” NBER Working Paper No. 17042 (2011). Note: the link is limited to those whose institutions have NBER accounts, though there is a way to get it emailed to you if the institutional account matches. Abstract below:
We assess the effectiveness of means-tested and social insurance programs in the United States. We show that per capita expenditures on these programs as a whole have grown over time but expenditures on some programs have declined. The benefit system in the U.S. has a major impact on poverty rates, reducing the percent poor in 2004 from 29 percent to 13.5 percent, estimates which are robust to different measures of the poverty line. We find that, while there are significant behavioral side effects of many programs, their aggregate impact is very small and does not affect the magnitude of the aggregate poverty impact of the system. The system reduces poverty the most for the disabled and the elderly and least for several groups among the non-elderly and non-disabled. Over time, we find that expenditures have shifted toward the disabled and the elderly, and away from those with the lowest incomes and toward those with higher incomes, with the consequence that post-transfer rates of deep poverty for some groups have increased. We conclude that the U.S. benefit system is paternalistic and tilted toward the support of the employed and toward groups with special needs and perceived deservingness.
Two articles of interest that came out of a symposium honoring Joel F. Handler (UCLA) look well worth checking out. UCLA Law Review also did a one page overview of Handler’s scholarly contributions that is worth reading.
1. Scott L. Cummings, The Pursuit of Legal Rights—and Beyond, 59 UCLA L. Rev. 506 (2012). Abstract below:
Just over thirty years ago, in a seminal trilogy of books, Joel Handler and his collaborators made three foundational contributions to the study of public interest lawyers. The first was theoretical, defining public interest law as a positive externality producing legal activity; the second was organizational, conceptualizing public interest law as an industry with multiple sectors that provided legal services; and the third was practical, examining the conditions under which legal rights activities were likely to succeed or fail. Looking back, Handler’s work may be read to support two distinct, and seemingly oppositional, claims: first (optimistically), that public interest lawyers are essential to robust participatory democracy and progressive social change (and thus society should support the field’s expansion), and second (pessimistically), that those same lawyers are nonetheless (at best) doomed to fail and (at worst) destined to be co-opted by the very political system they seek to transform. I call this the Paradox of Public Interest Law. In this Essay, I seek to evaluate the Paradox in light of the dramatically different political, economic, and intellectual context within which the public interest law movement now operates. I trace the arc of the movement’s change, emphasizing the role of ideological, organizational, and tactical complexity in driving new understandings of the meaning and practice of public interest law: from a coherent definition to a set of competing theories; from a nonprofit-centered view of the industry to one that incorporates a greater role for private sector delivery; and from an emphasis on the pursuit of legal rights in court as the central social change tactic to a broader focus on multiple advocacy strategies coordinated across multiple political domains. Evaluating these changes, I suggest that Handler’s optimistic hope for more public interest lawyers has been realized, while some of his pessimism has also been validated—but not entirely for the reasons that he imagined. In the end, Handler’s legacy teaches that the pursuit of legal rights—despite the risks—is still worth the fight.
2. Noah D. Zatz, Poverty Unmodified?: Critical Reflections on the Deserving/Undeserving Distinction, 59 UCLA L. Rev. 550 (2012). Abstract below:
According to a familiar and influential analysis, antipoverty programs are structured by distinctions between the deserving and undeserving poor. Through techniques like behavioral conditions on benefit eligibility, these moral distinctions divide the poor and interfere with providing assistance to all those in need. This analytical framework animates much critical scholarship on social welfare policy and guides most welfare rights litigation about benefit eligibility requirements.
This Essay challenges this “deservingness analytic” by questioning its separation of deservingness from need, its imagination of the poor as a preexisting population whose need can be conceptualized and determined apart from the moralistic concerns of deservingness. This supposed divide between deservingness and need is breached from both sides: Seemingly moralistic concerns with personal behavior often can be recast as assessments of economic need, and conventional techniques of measuring economic need inevitably implicate moralistic questions about personal behavior. Both phenomena become apparent once we unpack the conventional idea that the extent of “available” resources necessarily affects whether any needs are unmet.
Dismantling the barrier between deservingness and need facilitates new critical perspectives on both concepts. The implicit moral content of need assessments becomes visible and contestable, not for moralism alone but for moral error. I sketch such an argument with regard to the ubiquitous exclusion of childcare from the needs considered by means-tested benefits. Because behavioral conditions and need assessments are linked, new accounts of need also produce new accounts of conditions. For instance, broadening needs to incorporate childcare leads to broadening what should qualify as “work” under a work requirement, the quintessential behavioral eligibility condition.
Op-Ed of interest: Charles Murray, The New American Divide, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 21, 2012.