New Article: “The Taking Economy: Uber, Information, and Power”

New Article: Ryan Calo & Alex Rosenblat, The Taking Economy: Uber, Information, and Power, 117 Colum. L. Rev. 1623 (2017). Abstract below:

Sharing economy firms such as Uber and Airbnb facilitate trusted transactions between strangers on digital platforms. This creates economic and other value and raises a set of concerns around racial bias, safety, and fairness to competitors and workers that legal scholarship has begun to address. Missing from the literature, however, is a fundamental critique of the sharing economy grounded in asymmetries of information and power. This Article, coauthored by a law professor and a technology ethnographer who studies the ride-hailing community, furnishes such a critique and indicates a path toward a meaningful response.

Commercial firms have long used what they know about consumers to shape their behavior and maximize profits. By virtue of sitting between consumers and providers of services, however, sharing economy firms have a unique capacity to monitor and nudge all participants — including people whose livelihood may depend on the platform. Much activity is hidden away from view, but preliminary evidence suggests that sharing economy firms may already be leveraging their access to information about users and their control over the user experience to mislead, coerce, or otherwise disadvantage sharing economy participants.

This Article argues that consumer protection law, with its longtime emphasis of asymmetries of information and power, is relatively well positioned to address this under-examined aspect of the sharing economy. But the regulatory response to date seems outdated and superficial. To be effective, legal interventions must (1) reflect a deeper understanding of the acts and practices of digital platforms and (2) interrupt the incentives of sharing economy firms to abuse their position.


News Coverage: “Making Medicaid a Tool for Moral Education May Let Some Die”

News Coverage: Eduardo Porter, Making Medicaid a Tool for Moral Education May Let Some Die, N.Y. Times, Jan. 16, 2018.

New Article: “Graduating Economic Sanctions According to Ability to Pay”

New Article: Beth A. Colgan, Graduating Economic Sanctions According to Ability to Pay, 53 Iowa L. Rev. 103 (2017). Abstract below:

There is growing recognition that economic sanctions — fines, surcharges, fees, and restitution — are routinely imposed at rates many people have no meaningful ability to pay, which can exacerbate financial instability and lead to the perception that economic sanctions are unfairly punitive to people of limited means. Concerns triggered primarily by highly punitive tactics, including incarceration and long-term probation of low-income debtors for the failure to pay, have led to increasing calls for reform. While much attention is now being paid to the back-end of the system, and particularly limitations on punitive responses for the failure to pay due to poverty, this Article considers the problem from the front-end. In particular, this Article focuses on a potential reform with increasing bipartisan support: the graduation of economic sanctions according to a person’s financial circumstances.

To that end, this Article explores several key considerations essential to designing a system of graduation, relying heavily on a largely-forgotten experiment in seven geographically, demographically, and politically diverse jurisdictions in the United States with the “day-fine.” A day-fine is calculated using a penalty unit assigned based on the seriousness of the offense of conviction. The penalty unit is then multiplied by the defendant’s adjusted daily income to determine the day-fine amount. The result is an economic sanction adjusted to offense seriousness and simultaneously graduated to the defendant’s financial condition. This Article mines the historical record of the American day-fines experiments — complemented by recent interviews with people involved in the design and implementation of the projects and experiences with means-adjustment in the consumer bankruptcy, tax, and public benefits contexts — for lessons on the design of graduating economic sanctions. What emerges from this review is promising evidence that a properly designed and implemented system for graduation is consistent with efficient court administration, revenue generation, and equality in sentencing.

News Coverage: “Groundbreaking empirical research shows where innovation really comes from: Breaking down barriers for underrepresented kids could quadruple America’s pool of inventors”

News Coverage: Matthew Yglesias, Groundbreaking empirical research shows where innovation really comes from: Breaking down barriers for underrepresented kids could quadruple America’s pool of inventors,, Dec. 5, 2017.

The same research is also covered here: America’s Lost Einsteins.

New(ish) Article: “The Effects of Exposure to Better Neighborhoods on Children: New Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment”

New Article: Raj Chetty et al., The Effects of Exposure to Better Neighborhoods on Children: New Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment, 106 Am. Econ. Rev. 855 (2016). Abstract below:

The Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment offered randomly selected families housing vouchers to move from high-poverty housing projects to lower-poverty neighborhoods. We analyze MTO’s impacts on children’s long-term outcomes using tax data. We find that moving to a lower-poverty neighborhood when young (before age 13) increases college attendance and earnings and reduces single parenthood rates. Moving as an adolescent has slightly negative impacts, perhaps because of disruption effects. The decline in the gains from moving with the age when children move suggests that the duration of exposure to better environments during childhood is an important determinant of children’s long-term outcomes. (JEL I31, I38, J13, R23, R38)

New Report: “World Inequality Report 2018”

wir2018-full-report-english-fcb06190New Report: “World Inequality Report 2018” [Note: this is a very professionally done report with big “coordinator” scholars behind it and has great charts.]

New Article: “The Management Side of Due Process in the Service-Based Welfare State”

New Article: Charles F. Sabel & William H. Simon, The Management Side of Due Process in the Service-Based Welfare State, in Administrative Law from the Inside Out: Essays on Themes in the Work of Jerry L. Mashaw, edited by Nicholas R. Parrillo, Cambridge University Press, 2017. Abstract below:

The American welfare state is evolving away from the model initiated during the New Deal and elaborated during the civil rights era. It increasingly aims at capacitation rather than income maintenance, and its interventions more frequently take the form of services as opposed to monetary grants. These changes entail modes of organization and legal accountability different from those associated with New Deal-civil rights era model. This paper, written for a volume honoring Jerry Mashaw, considers Mashaw’s seminal analysis of legal accountability in the welfare state in the light of the key trends of recent decades. The tension or trade-off between individualized decision-making and bureaucratic rationality that preoccupies much of Mashaw’s analysis is mitigated in novel ways in the newer programs. The new programs depend on the tailoring of services to the individual circumstances of the beneficiary. Yet, at the same time, these programs aspire to use technology and managerial techniques to hold frontline agents accountable in ways different from those Mashaw contemplated.

Book Review: “It’s the Gap, Stupid”

Book Review: Archon Fung, It’s the Gap, Stupid, Boston Review, Sept. 1, 2017 [editorial note: worth reading].

New Article: “Side by Side: Revitalizing Urban Cores and Ensuring Residential Diversity”

New Article: Andrea J. Boyack, Side by Side: Revitalizing Urban Cores and Ensuring Residential Diversity, forthcoming Chicago-Kent L. Rev. Abstract below:

Fifty years ago, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed a hope that someday people of all races would “live side by side in decent, safe, and sanitary housing.” Residential patterns in America today, however, remain highly segregated by race and income. The Fair Housing Act outlawed overt housing discrimination and unjustified discriminatory impacts, but zoning laws and housing finance structures have continued to impede housing integration, leaving communities nearly as racially homogenous as they were in the mid 20th century. These separate neighborhoods are far from equal. The majority of people who reside in financially distressed city-center neighborhoods are non-white. Historically, efforts to renovate city centers have perpetuated racial housing segregation by moving impoverished minority residents out of gentrifying areas. City-center revitalization is a key way to promote community health, wealth, and safety, but revitalization efforts must improve diversity as well as infrastructure. Revitalization efforts that include housing for all income levels and amenities that enrich all residents can help combat not only continuing racial disparity of opportunity in this country, but also the indicia of un-resolved racial animus that both geographically and psychologically divides the nation.

Failing urban cores represent one of today’s biggest societal problems. Decades of population and income loss have left many urban neighborhoods trapped in a physical, economic, and social death spiral. Cities present great potential sources of wealth and culture for society. It will be challenging for municipalities, regions, and states to create and execute plans to rebuild decaying urban neighborhoods in a way that will both generate economic opportunity and sustainably integrate people of different races, ethnicities, and income levels. Federal financing structures and local zoning laws should be harnessed to achieve that vision. At the very least, financing and zoning programs and policies must be reformed so that they are no longer barriers to integrated gentrification.

Market trends support the city investment effort. The “American dream” concept of home is no longer unitary, focused solely on single-family detached homes on large lots in far-flung suburbs. Housing preferences seem to be shifting toward denser, more walk-able, urban-feel mixed-use neighborhoods; provided, however, that those neighborhoods are safe and provide adequate amenities and services. The market’s renewed demand for quality urban housing presents an opportunity for urban revival. Municipalities can salvage their city centers by aligning their land use laws and affordable housing policies to catch and ride this wave of consumer demand. Financial institutions and zoning approaches need to modernize in order to encourage and enable the creation of multi-use neighborhoods and properties. Innovative zoning and financial tools can be employed not only to achieve a redesigned city’s integrated physical infrastructure, but also its income, racial, and cultural diversity.

This article discusses the need to reform financial structures and zoning approaches in the context of needed urban redevelopment. Part I explains the inadequacy of historic affordable housing programs, pointing out that these have been insufficient to provide equitable housing opportunities and have, in fact, entrenched the problems of city-suburb divide and racial and income segregation. Part II posits that federal housing assistance should be re-imagined in a more holistic way, focused first on improving a neighborhood rather than individual renters or units. It also discusses some creative ways that federal and local agencies may enlist private investment and involvement in community revitalization efforts while retaining necessary control. Part III advocates that city planners move away from use-segregated zoning approaches and embrace inclusionary approaches that will promote neighborhoods that are diverse with respect to property uses and types of residential housing options. With the proper foresight and incentive structures, urban gentrification can be channeled to maximize housing integration and neighborhood stability.

New Report: “America’s Rental Housing 2017”

New Report: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, America’s Rental Housing 2017 (2017).