This book has been out since 2019 but it is now posted on SSRN in its entirety so I thought I should highlight it (esp. since I missed it in 2019): Linda E. Fisher & Judith Fox, The Foreclosure Echo: How the Hardest Hit Have Been Left out of the Economic Recovery (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Overview below:
This book tells the story of the foreclosure crisis from a new perspective – that of ordinary people who experienced it. This angle has not been thoroughly communicated before now. The authors are legal academics who have worked for decades defending low- to moderate-income people from foreclosure and challenging predatory lending practices. They have a wealth of experience representing people whose American Dream was shattered when they were threatened with losing their homes. Using actual experiences – often examined through a legal lens – supplemented by economic, social science and legal research, The Foreclosure Echo explains how people experienced the crisis and how their lenders and public institutions let them down. The book also details the lingering effects of the crisis – such as vacant and abandoned buildings – and how these effects have magnified inequality. Finally, the book suggests reforms that could help avoid another crisis.
Book: Anne Daguerre, Obama’s Welfare Legacy: An Assessment of US Anti-Poverty Policies (2017). Available on Cambridge Core as well. I missed this one when it came out which is why it is going up now.
New Book: Jon C. Dubin, Social Security Disability Law and the American Labor Market (2021). Overview below:
How social security disability law is out of touch with the contemporary American labor market
Passing down nearly a million decisions each year, more judges handle disability cases for the Social Security Administration than federal civil and criminal cases combined.
In Social Security Disability Law and the American Labor Market, Jon C. Dubin challenges the contemporary policies for determining disability benefits and work assessment. He posits the fundamental questions: where are the jobs for persons with significant medical and vocational challenges? And how does the administration misfire in its standards and processes for answering that question? Deploying his profound understanding of the Social Security Administration and Disability law and policy, he demystifies the system, showing us its complex inner mechanisms and flaws, its history and evolution, and how changes in the labor market have rendered some agency processes obsolete. Dubin lays out how those who advocate eviscerating program coverage and needed life support benefits in the guise of modernizing these procedures would reduce the capacity for the Social Security Administration to function properly and serve its intended beneficiaries, and argues that the disability system should instead be “mended, not ended.”
Dubin argues that while it may seem counterintuitive, the transformation from an industrial economy to a twenty-first-century service economy in the information age, with increased automation, and resulting diminished demand for arduous physical labor, has not meaningfully reduced the relevance of, or need for, the disability benefits programs. Indeed, they have created new and different obstacles to work adjustments based on the need for other skills and capacities in the new economy—especially for the significant portion of persons with cognitive, psychiatric, neuro-psychological, or other mental impairments. Therefore, while the disability program is in dire need of empirically supported updating and measures to remedy identified deficiencies, obsolescence, inconsistencies in application, and racial, economic and other inequities, the program’s framework is sufficiently broad and enduring to remain relevant and faithful to the Act’s congressional beneficent purposes and aspirations.
-Ezra Rosser, Book Review, 72 University of Toronto Law Journal 245 (2022) (reviewing Hanoch Dagan, A Liberal Theory of Property (2021)). The irony of this book review is that much of Dagan’s book involves the rights of non-owners but the University of Toronto Law Journal does not allow me to post the review to SSRN where it would be freely available. But it does provide 25 free redeemable “tokens” so others can read the electronic version of the article. Given that this is a book review of a property theory book, 25 such tokens very likely will more than cover the needs of the small group of people who might be interested. You can access the article at this link: https://www.utpjournals.press/eprint/CER924HEMWUKVKEZAGYY/full. But if anyone has trouble, just email me and I will make sure you are able to read the review. More importantly, for property/poverty people or just property people with a taste for more theoretical work, Dagan’s book is a worthwhile read.
New Book: Legal Guide to Affordable Housing Development (Tim Iglesias, Rochelle Emilia Lento & Rigel Christine Oliveri eds., ABA 3rd ed. 2022). Overview below:
This book is a comprehensive legal guide to the development of affordable housing for practitioners and housing advocates. It covers all aspects of the development process, including zoning and building codes, financing, monitoring and enforcement of regulations, preservation of affordable housing, and relocation requirements. It also includes brief chapters on the history of affordable housing and the future of affordable housing.
New Book: Joseph Fishkin & William E. Forbath, The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution: Reconstructing the Economic Foundations of American Democracy (2022). Overview below:
A bold call to reclaim an American tradition that argues the Constitution imposes a duty on government to fight oligarchy and ensure broadly shared wealth.
Oligarchy is a threat to the American republic. When too much economic and political power is concentrated in too few hands, we risk losing the “republican form of government” the Constitution requires. Today, courts enforce the Constitution as if it had almost nothing to say about this threat. But as Joseph Fishkin and William Forbath show in this revolutionary retelling of constitutional history, a commitment to prevent oligarchy once stood at the center of a robust tradition in American political and constitutional thought.
Fishkin and Forbath demonstrate that reformers, legislators, and even judges working in this “democracy-of-opportunity” tradition understood that the Constitution imposes a duty on legislatures to thwart oligarchy and promote a broad distribution of wealth and political power. These ideas led Jacksonians to fight special economic privileges for the few, Populists to try to break up monopoly power, and Progressives to fight for the constitutional right to form a union. During Reconstruction, Radical Republicans argued in this tradition that racial equality required breaking up the oligarchy of the Slave Power and distributing wealth and opportunity to former slaves and their descendants. President Franklin Roosevelt and the New Dealers built their politics around this tradition, winning the fight against the “economic royalists” and “industrial despots.”
But today, as we enter a new Gilded Age, this tradition in progressive American economic and political thought lies dormant. The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution begins the work of recovering it and exploring its profound implications for our deeply unequal society and badly damaged democracy.
New Book: Jenny Schuetz, Fixer-Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems (2022). Overview below:
Much ink has been spilled in recent years talking about political divides and inequality in the United States. But these discussions too often miss one of the most important factors in the divisions among Americans: the fundamentally unequal nature of the nation’s housing systems. Financially well-off Americans can afford comfortable, stable homes in desirable communities. Millions of other Americans cannot.
And this divide deepens other inequalities. Increasingly, important life outcomes—performance in school, employment, even life expectancy—are determined by where people live and the quality of homes they live in.
Unequal housing systems didn’t just emerge from natural economic and social forces. Public policies enacted by federal, state, and local governments helped create and reinforce the bad housing outcomes endured by too many people. Taxes, zoning, institutional discrimination, and the location and quality of schools, roads, public transit, and other public services are among the policies that created inequalities in the nation’s housing patterns.
Fixer-Upper is the first book assessing how the broad set of local, state, and national housing policies affect people and communities. It does more than describe how yesterday’s policies led to today’s problems. It proposes practical policy changes than can make stable, decent-quality housing more available and affordable for all Americans in all communities.
Fixing systemic problems that arose over decades won’t be easy, in large part because millions of middle-class Americans benefit from the current system and feel threatened by potential changes. But Fixer-Upper suggests ideas for building political coalitions among diverse groups that share common interests in putting better housing within reach for more Americans, building a more equitable and healthy country.
New Book: Tony Messenger, Profit and Punishment: How America Criminalizes the Poor in the Name of Justice (2021). Overview below:
In Profit and Punishment, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist exposes the tragedy of modern-day debtors prisons, and how they destroy the lives of poor Americans swept up in a system designed to penalize the most impoverished.
“Intimate, raw, and utterly scathing” — Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Blood in the Water
“Crucial evidence that the justice system is broken and has to be fixed. Please read this book.” —James Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author
As a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tony Messenger has spent years in county and municipal courthouses documenting how poor Americans are convicted of minor crimes and then saddled with exorbitant fines and fees. If they are unable to pay, they are often sent to prison, where they are then charged a pay-to-stay bill, in a cycle that soon creates a mountain of debt that can take years to pay off. These insidious penalties are used to raise money for broken local and state budgets, often overseen by for-profit companies, and it is one of the central issues of the criminal justice reform movement.
In the tradition of Evicted and The New Jim Crow, Messenger has written a call to arms, shining a light on a two-tiered system invisible to most Americans. He introduces readers to three single mothers caught up in this system: living in poverty in Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, whose lives are upended when minor offenses become monumental financial and personal catastrophes. As these women struggle to clear their debt and move on with their lives, readers meet the dogged civil rights advocates and lawmakers fighting by their side to create a more equitable and fair court of justice. In this remarkable feat of reporting, Tony Messenger exposes injustice that is agonizing and infuriating in its mundane cruelty, as he champions the rights and dignity of some of the most vulnerable Americans.
Related op-ed by the book’s author here.
New Book: Priya Fielding-Singh, How the Other Half Eats: The Untold Story of Food and Inequality in America (2021). Overview below:
A “deeply empathetic” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) “must-read” (Marion Nestle) that “weaves lyrical storytelling and fascinating research into a compelling narrative” (San Francisco Chronicle) to look at dietary differences along class lines and nutritional disparities in America, illuminating exactly how inequality starts on the dinner plate.
Inequality in America manifests in many ways, but perhaps nowhere more than in how we eat. From her years of field research, sociologist and ethnographer Priya Fielding-Singh brings us into the kitchens of dozens of families from varied educational, economic, and ethnoracial backgrounds to explore how—and why—we eat the way we do. We get to know four families intimately: the Bakers, a Black family living below the federal poverty line; the Williamses, a working-class white family just above it; the Ortegas, a middle-class Latinx family; and the Cains, an affluent white family.
Whether it’s worrying about how far pantry provisions can stretch or whether there’s enough time to get dinner on the table before soccer practice, all families have unique experiences that reveal their particular dietary constraints and challenges. By diving into the nuances of these families’ lives, Fielding-Singh lays bare the limits of efforts narrowly focused on improving families’ food access. Instead, she reveals how being rich or poor in America impacts something even more fundamental than the food families can afford: these experiences impact the very meaning of food itself.
Packed with lyrical storytelling and groundbreaking research, as well as Fielding-Singh’s personal experiences with food as a biracial, South Asian American woman, How the Other Half Eats illuminates exactly how inequality starts on the dinner plate. Once you’ve taken a seat at tables across America, you’ll never think about class, food, and public health the same way again.
New Book: Investing in Rural Prosperity (Andrew Dumont & Daniel Paul Davis eds., Fed. Res. Bank of St. Louis, 2021). Overview of the book below:
Investing in Rural Prosperity, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, seeks to help rural individuals and communities achieve shared economic prosperity. By outlining a framework for how to approach rural development successfully and showcasing stories of progress in different communities—as well as highlighting recommendations for action by policymakers, practitioners, funders and researchers—the editors and authors hope to advance this important goal.
The book includes contributions from 79 authors in the United States and abroad, representing financial institutions, nonprofits, philanthropies, academia and government agencies. The chapters touch on a wide range of topics, including entrepreneurship support, workforce development, energy efficient manufactured housing, and digital inclusion. The book delves into the challenges of our past and the promise of our future. Ultimately, Investing in Rural Prosperity is a call to action, so we can realize that promise—together.
Related podcast and other materials here.