Category Archives: Family

New Article: The Consumption, Income, and Well-Being of Single Mother Headed Families 25 Years After Welfare Reform

New Article: Jeehoon Han et al., The Consumption, Income, and Well-Being of Single Mother Headed Families 25 Years After Welfare Reform, Nat’l Bureau Econ. Rsch. (2021). Abstract and Description Below:

We investigate how material well-being has changed over time for single mother headed families—the primary group affected by welfare reform and other policy changes of the 1990s. We focus on consumption as well as other indicators including components of consumption, measures of housing quality, and health insurance coverage. The results provide strong evidence that the material circumstances of single mothers improved in the decades following welfare reform. The consumption of the most disadvantaged single mother headed families—those with low consumption or low education—rose noticeably over time and at a faster rate than for those in comparison groups.

New Article: Chosen Family, Care, and the Workplace

New Article: Deborah A. Widiss, Chosen Family, Care, and the Workplace, forthcoming Yale L. J. Forum. Abstract below:

Fewer than twenty percent of American households consist of a traditional nuclear family—a married couple living together with their shared children. Couples routinely live together without marrying, blended and multigenerational families are increasingly common, and many adults, including a sizeable share of senior citizens, live alone. It is therefore not surprising that employees often request time off work to care for the medical needs of loved ones who are part of their extended or chosen family.

Until recently, most workers would not have had any legal right to take such leave. A rapidly growing number of state laws, however, not only guarantee paid time off for family health needs but also adopt innovative and expansive definitions of eligible family. Several provide leave to care for intimate partners without requiring legal formalization of the relationship and they also explicitly cover a broad range of extended family. Some go further to include any individual who has a relationship with the employee that is “like” or “equivalent to” a family relationship. Still others employ a functional approach that simply asks whether a sick individual depends on the employee for care.

This Essay provides the first detailed analysis of inclusive definitions of family enacted in state paid leave laws, as well as similar language in proposed federal legislation. It argues that providing workers the autonomy to define their own concept of family is essential, given varied makeup of modern families. A flexible standard is especially important for people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, whose care networks are particularly likely to extend beyond the boundaries of the nuclear family.

Such flexibility, however, can pose administrative challenges. The laws will only achieve their purpose if both public and private personnel implementing them understand the broad scope of coverage and take steps to ensure that employees whose families depart from traditional norms are protected from workplace discrimination. This Essay identifies potential obstacles to effective implementation and suggests strategies for addressing them.

New Article: “Revolutionizing Redistribution: Tax Credits and the American Rescue Plan”

New Article: Ariel Jurow Kleiman, Revolutionizing Redistribution: Tax Credits and the American Rescue Plan, forthcoming Yale L.J. Forum. Abstract below:

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dramatically alters the federal government’s approach to redistribution in 2021. Among its boldest reforms are its temporary expansions of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. For the first time, ARPA authorizes meaningful cash support for nonworking families and childless workers, two groups that have been historically disadvantaged by social safety net programs. This Essay considers ARPA’s effects on low-income American taxpayers, spotlighting in particular how the reforms will protect millions of households from being pushed into poverty or further into poverty as a result of paying taxes—a phenomenon called “fiscal impoverishment.” Policy makers must make ARPA’s reforms permanent in order to ensure that low-income taxpayers remain protected past 2021. As they work to do so, policy makers should be mindful of gaps in the tax credits that will undermine the reforms’ positive effects. The Essay identifies several such gaps and argues that Congress should legislate more dramatic inclusion for households with and without children.

New Book: “A War on Global Poverty: The Lost Promise of Redistribution and the Rise of Microcredit”

9780691206332New Book: Joanne Meyerowitz, A War on Global Poverty: The Lost Promise of Redistribution and the Rise of Microcredit (2021). Overview below:

A War on Global Poverty provides a fresh account of US involvement in campaigns to end global poverty in the 1970s and 1980s. From the decline of modernization programs to the rise of microcredit, Joanne Meyerowitz looks beyond familiar histories of development and explains why antipoverty programs increasingly focused on women as the deserving poor.

When the United States joined the war on global poverty, economists, policymakers, and activists asked how to change a world in which millions lived in need. Moved to the left by socialists, social democrats, and religious humanists, they rejected the notion that economic growth would trickle down to the poor, and they proposed programs to redress inequities between and within nations. In an emerging “women in development” movement, they positioned women as economic actors who could help lift families and nations out of destitution. In the more conservative 1980s, the war on global poverty turned decisively toward market-based projects in the private sector. Development experts and antipoverty advocates recast women as entrepreneurs and imagined microcredit—with its tiny loans—as a grassroots solution. Meyerowitz shows that at the very moment when the overextension of credit left poorer nations bankrupt, loans to impoverished women came to replace more ambitious proposals that aimed at redistribution.

Based on a wealth of sources, A War on Global Poverty looks at a critical transformation in antipoverty efforts in the late twentieth century and points to its legacies today.

New Article: Equalizing Parental Leave

New Article: Deborah A. Widiss, Equalizing Parental Leave, 105 Minn. L. Rev. 2175 (2021). Abstract below:

The United States is the only developed country that fails to guarantee paid time off work to new parents. As a result, many new parents, particularly low-wage workers, are forced to go back to work within days or weeks of a birth or adoption. In recent years, a growing number of states have passed laws to address this gap in American labor policy, and in December 2019, Congress enacted legislation providing paid parental leave for most federal workers. This Article offers the first detailed analysis of these new laws, and it exposes how their structure—probably unintentionally—disadvantages sole-parent families.

In America, unlike most other countries, leave is provided on a sex-neutral basis as an individual benefit to each parent of a newly-born or newly-adopted child. This structure is intended to shift gender norms around caretaking within (different-sex) marriages, but it means that sole-parent families receive only half as much support. This is a significant problem, as forty percent of new mothers in the United States are unmarried. Under state family laws, most single mothers, disproportionately poor and working-class women of color, bear sole legal responsibility for the care of their children, and many are functionally parenting on their own. The new laws are an important step forward from the prior baseline of no paid leave, but they shortchange the families that are likely to need them the most.

Prior theoretical and doctrinal assessments of equality in the context of parental leave discuss the relative merits of treating mothers and fathers identically, versus providing “special” supports to mothers. This focus obscures other important considerations, such as whether families or children are treated equally. Additionally, since women are far more likely than men to be single parents, privileging ideals of formal equality in this context has the practical effect of disadvantaging women. Drawing on models used in other countries, this Article proposes that sole parents should be eligible to receive an extended period of benefits, or that a broader range of extended or chosen family members should be able to claim benefits to care for a newly-born or newly-adopted child. This proposal would not unduly burden businesses, because the financing mechanism for these laws already spreads costs across the tax base.

New Article: In Pursuit of Economic Justice: The Political Economy of Domestic Violence Laws and Policies

New Article: Deborah M. Weissman, In Pursuit of Economic Justice: The Political Economy of Domestic Violence Laws and Policies, 2020 Utah L. Rev. 1 (2020). Abstract below:

Violence experienced within the family — perhaps the most intimate of all social arrangements — causes devastating consequences. Recent phenomena, including accounts of perpetrators of mass shootings with a history of domestic violence and the #MeToo movement, have called new attention to the costs and consequences of violence against women. Intimate violence wreaks havoc extending beyond the private spaces of the household, thereupon to lay bare the structural shortcomings of public institutions.

The act of domestic violence enters the public imagination principally as an offense of physical abuse. It is more complicated. In fact, intimate partner violence (IPV) is often exercised as an act of coercion by abusers who engage in strategies to interfere with their partners’ ability to engage productively in the workplace and deny them control over economic resources, that is, to deny them agency. Certainly, awareness of the insidious facets of economic coercion of IPV has expanded in recent years. However, attention to the efficacy of legal and policy responses to the economic consequences of such abuse has not received commensurate attention. Federal and state laws designed to address economic abuse are applied haphazardly if at all. The laws themselves, moreover, are ill-suited to address the structural issues that contribute to domestic violence in the first place. Similarly, “economic justice initiatives” promoted by anti-violence advocates to “respond to, address, and prevent financial abuse” related to domestic violence fall far short of their intended goals. The primary programmatic focus of the “economic justice initiatives” tend to privilege personal financial literacy as a means to repair consumer credit and enhance victims’ capacities to bank and save as a strategy of economic independence. These programs ignore the overarching neoliberal underpinnings of the political economy that burden victims with the costs of their own remediation through practices designed to benefit financial markets.

The recent attention to remediating domestic violence including economic abuse sets in relief the need to introduce analyses of political economy into law practices and advocacy strategies. This article provides such analysis and considers how legal remedies and advocacy strategies that address economic abuse are constrained and shaped market forces. It argues that without an understanding of political economy, programmatic “advances” may in fact exacerbate the economic circumstances of victims as well as abusers. Those whose lives are shattered by domestic violence should not be subjected to a remediation paradigm more suited for those who possess political and financial power than those who do not.

New Article: “Their Home is Not Their Castle: Subsidized Housing’s Intrusion into Family Privacy and Decisional Autonomy”

New Article: Michelle Ewert, Their Home is Not Their Castle: Subsidized Housing’s Intrusion into Family Privacy and Decisional Autonomy, 99 N.C. L. Rev. 869 (2021). Abstract below:

The anti-Black racism that has permeated public benefits programs and federal housing policy for over a century persists in subsidized rental housing. Public housing authorities (PHAs) impede the ability of tenants—who are disproportionately Black women—to change household composition as their family situations change. PHAs routinely take months or longer to approve requests to add or remove household members and often require tenants to produce inaccessible third-party verification of a former household member’s new address before removing them from official records. In failing to grant these requests promptly, PHAs infringe on tenants’ fundamental right to privacy and family autonomy, impose a financial burden on tenants who have limited resources, and put tenants at risk of eviction if former household members are arrested for criminal activity.

This Article proposes workable solutions to these problems. First, PHA failure to timely respond to a request to adjust household composition should be treated as a constructive denial, as is done in fair housing law and other areas of administrative law. This strategy would allow tenants to pursue administrative and judicial review rights that already exist in public housing and the housing choice voucher program. Second, the statutory or regulatory schemes governing subsidized housing should be amended to include subpoena powers such as exist in the Administrative Procedure Act to allow tenants to access needed third-party records. These changes would protect the substantive and due process rights of vulnerable tenants and help dismantle systemic racism that continues to plague public benefits programs.

New Article: “COVID-19 and the Caregiving Crisis: The Rights of our Nation’s Social Safety Net and a Doorway to Reform”

New Article: Leanne Fuith & Susan Trombley, COVID-19 and the Caregiving Crisis: The Rights of our Nation’s Social Safety Net and a Doorway to Reform, 11 U. MIA Race & Soc. Just. L. Rev. 159 (2021). Abstract below:

On March 2020, the United States declared a pandemic due to the global Covid-19 virus. Across the nation and within a matter of days, workplaces, schools, childcare, and eldercare facilities shuttered. People retreated to their homes to shelter-in-place and slow the spread of the virus for what would become a much longer time than most initially anticipated. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, many professional and personal lives have been upended and become inextricably intertwined. Work is now home, and home is now work. Work is completed at all times of day and well into the night. Children and pets make daily appearances in our virtual meetings. In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a leveling experience. Everyone has struggled during the pandemic in some way—even the most privileged. And, yet, in many ways the pandemic has also been incredibly stratifying. The United States is now in an “unequal recession.” One of the most crucial inequalities is the impact on those who hold caregiving roles in our society. Working caregivers and women absorbed most of the unanticipated work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic—childcare, remote teaching, and care for aging parents and family members with special needs. Additionally, those same working caregivers—primarily women—are quitting their jobs in record numbers in order to manage the workload. Loss of employment is not the only impact. Working caregivers quickly became society’s fallback plan in the United States. The Covid-19 pandemic shone a bright light on the value that the United States assigns to the work of caregiving and the inequities that exist in American culture and workplaces toward the individuals who perform those roles. The ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on women will be felt for years to come—by the women, their families, and our workplaces which have lost and are losing daily the important and diverse perspectives those women bring to their work This article explores the role of caregivers during the Covid-19 pandemic, both the immediate and long-term impacts on those in caregiving roles, including the disproportionate impact of caregiving responsibilities on women, and the need for long-term reform to better support and value caregivers in the United States.

New Article: “The New Man in the House Rules: How the Regulation of Housing Vouchers Turns Personal Bonds Into Eviction Liabilities”

New Article: Rahim Kurwa, The New Man in the House Rules: How the Regulation of Housing Vouchers Turns Personal Bonds Into Eviction Liabilities, Housing Policy Debate 30, no. 6 (2020): 926-949 [may need to access it through a library]. Abstract below:

Whereas federal aid to the poor has traditionally focused on support for families, a central contradiction in these policies is the degree to which the state employs antifamily modes of regulation and punishment, a finding consistent across welfare, health, and child services. I extend this analysis to Housing Choice Vouchers, the nation’s largest rental assistance program. Interviews with voucher renters show how, like welfare’s early man in the house rules, the public–private regulation of the program turns personal bonds into eviction liabilities. I trace these vulnerabilities to two rules: one banning unauthorized tenants from residing in the home, and another banning drug- and crime-related activity. After documenting how the enforcement of these rules forces tenants to choose between family and housing, I suggest that these dynamics illustrate similarities between the punitive regulation of housing and other safety net programs.

New Op-ed: An advantage of the government’s new payments for families: Not humiliating poor people

New Op-ed: Wendy Bach, An advantage of the government’s new payments for families: Not humiliating poor people, The Conversation, Apr. 20, 2021.