Category Archives: Finance

New Book: Excluded – How Snob Zoning, NIMBYism, and Class Bias Build the Walls We Don’t See

New Book: Richard D. Kahlenberg, Excluded: How Snob Zoning, NIMBYism, and Class Bias Build the Walls We Don’t See, PublicAffairs, (July 2023). Overview below:

An indictment of America’s housing policy that reveals the social engineering underlying our segregation by economic class, the social and political fallout that result, and what we can do about it

The last, acceptable form of prejudice in America is based on class and executed through state-sponsored economic discrimination, which is hard to see because it is much more subtle than raw racism.

While the American meritocracy officially denounces prejudice based on race and gender, it has spawned a new form of bias against those with less education and income.  Millions of working-class Americans have their opportunity blocked by exclusionary snob zoning.  These government policies make housing unaffordable, frustrate the goals of the civil rights movement, and lock in inequality in our urban and suburban landscapes.

Through moving accounts of families excluded from economic and social opportunity as they are hemmed in through “new redlining” that limits the type of housing that can be built, Richard Kahlenberg vividly illustrates why America has a housing crisis. He also illustrates why economic segregation matters since where you live affects access to transportation, employment opportunities, decent health care, and good schools. He shows that housing choice has been socially engineered to the benefit of the affluent, and, that astonishingly the most restrictive zoning is found in politically liberal cities where racial views are more progressive.

Despite this there is hope. Kahlenberg tells the inspiring stories of growing number of local and national movements working to tear down the walls that inflicts so much damage on the lives of millions of Americans.

New Report: The Geography of Renter Financial Distress and Housing Insecurity During the Pandemic

New Report: Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, Alexander Hermann, Chris Herbert, & Sophia Wedeen,  The Geography of Renter Financial Distress and Housing Insecurity During the Pandemic, JCHS, (Jan. 25, 2023). Overview below:

Using restricted-access data from the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey containing detailed geographic information about where respondents live, this paper assesses the financial distress renter households faced by neighborhood characteristic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April 2021 and February 2022, 23 percent of renters lost employment income in the month before they were surveyed, while 15 percent fell behind on their housing payments. But the financial distress renters faced was not evenly dispersed by neighborhood type across the country. Renters living in communities of color, and in high-poverty, lower-income, and lower-rent neighborhoods were more likely to experience financial distress. Given that renters are highly concentrated in a relatively small share of neighborhoods, this financial distress was also geographically concentrated. Indeed, more than three-fifths of renters behind on their housing payments lived in communities of color, while about two-fifths lived in high-poverty or lower-income neighborhoods. Lastly, this paper estimates the extent to which emergency rental assistance application and acceptance rates vary by neighborhood type, finding that neighborhoods with the greatest rates of distress also had the highest ERA application and acceptance rates, which indicates that ERA generally reached the neighborhoods with the greatest need despite other challenges. We conclude with the policy and research implications of our findings.

New Article: Income Inequality, Job Polarization, and the Redistributive Power of Antitrust

New Article: Elyse Dorsey, Income Inequality, Job Polarization, and the Redistributive Power of Antitrust, 29(4) Geo. Mason. L. Rev. (2022).

In recent years, income inequality and antitrust enforcement have been repeatedly linked in popular and policy discussions. Particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic shocked and dramatically reshaped daily lives across the world, concerns regarding economic inequality have surged. Simultaneously, as the pandemic increased global reliance upon technological tools—already the topic of significant debate regarding appropriate antitrust enforcement—and catalyzed disruptions along all manner of supply chains, created various shortages, and drove price increases, the appropriate role of antitrust laws once again reemerged as a critical topic of discussion. It was perhaps inevitable that the two phenomena would be linked in policy discussions.

Indeed, the nature of a causal link between income or wealth inequality and antitrust is longstanding, though surprisingly underexamined. Since early in the twentieth century, the U.S. Government sought to examine the supposed “intimate relation” between income distribution and monopoly power. In the decades since, this intimate relation has been invoked repeatedly.


The goal of this Article is to understand better the capacity of antitrust law and policy to affect inequality trends and to begin the work of ascertaining its role in contributing to recent income inequality trends. It is generally agreed that individual antitrust cases have distributional effects. But the causal link between antitrust enforcement and inequality, writ large, remains underdeveloped and underexplored. There is a robust literature exploring trends in income distribution which would seem to provide ample ground for developing the relationship between inequality trends and antitrust enforcement.

Part I summarizes the income inequality literature, to provide a more detailed basis upon which to analyze the potential effect of antitrust enforcement across the period examined. Part II describes general antitrust law and enforcement trends since 1890, setting the stage for a comparison of the trends in antitrust and those observed in income distribution. Part III explores the connection between these trends. Part IV deploys these insights to consider the redistributive power of antitrust law. The work is a first step toward a richer understanding of how antitrust law and policy might contribute to income inequality trends and, ultimately, of whether changes in law, policy, or priorities might better facilitate desired goals.

New Article: Changing Every Wrong Door into the Right One: Reforming Legal Services Intake to Empower Clients

New Article: Jabeen Adawi, Changing Every Wrong Door into the Right One: Reforming Legal Services Intake to Empower Clients, 29(3) Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol’y 361 (2022). Abstract Below:

It’s recognized that people affected by poverty often have numerous overlapping legal needs and despite the proliferation of legal services, they are unable to receive full assistance. When a person is faced with a legal emergency, rarely is there an equivalent to a hospital’s emergency room wherein they receive an immediate diagnosis for their needs and subsequent assistance. In this paper, I focus on the process a person goes through to find assistance and argue that it is a burdensome, and demoralizing task of navigating varying protocols, procedures, and individuals. While these systems are well intentioned from the lawyer’s perspective, they have unintended consequences for the client. These consequences are especially significant when viewed through our poverty law goal of empowering clients.

I argue that the process to find an attorney is unintentionally riddled with invisible barriers that more closely resemble red-tape bureaucracy than the client empowerment that poverty law desires. I highlight four flaws in how legal service intakes are implemented. First, legal services organizations are a complicated web of varying agencies and providers making it challenging for a client to find the right office for their needs. Second, conflict rules, while intended to preserve zealous advocacy, often inhibit a client from finding counsel. Third, in legal services there is little transparency around why or if a case is likely to be accepted, leaving a client confused and frustrated. Fourth, a low-income client has no choice in who actually represents them unlike a client with means who can seek out a specific attorney.

I examine the consequences of these flaws in the context of client empowerment. I argue that the combination of these barriers in one process actually disempower clients and prevent them from accessing the services they need. Finally, I highlight one solution: a collaborative intake and triage model that was piloted in Washington, D.C. to service crime victims. I explore how this model addresses some of these barriers and how it may be a blueprint for much-needed legal services delivery reform.

New Article: The Politics of the Law of Biden’s Student Debt Jubilee

New Article: Luke Herrine, The Politics of the Law of Biden’s Student Debt Jubilee, LPE (Sept. 19, 2022). Excerpt Below:

You may have heard that, after nearly two years of “will he or won’t he,” President Biden announced that the Department of Education will cancel student debt. Well, it will cancel a limited amount of student debt for borrowers that meet certain income criteria before restarting payments again on the First of January, 2023.

And even that much is in question. Because of the means-testing built into the plan, most eligible borrowers will have to fill out an application, which will apparently not be available until October(!!). In the meantime, movement conservatives are gearing up to challenge the effort. Knowing that they won’t be able to form a majority in Congress (at least not before midterms), they are directing their efforts toward a more sympathetic forum: the federal courts. If they find a sympathetic ear, they may be able to enjoin the jubilee altogether.

Will they find such an ear? Should they?

How should we answer these questions?

New Article: The Tax-Invisible Labor Program: Care, Work, Kinship, and Income Security Programs in the IRC

New Article: Nyamagaga Gondwe, The Tax-Invisible Labor Program: Care, Work, Kinship, and Income Security Programs in the IRC, 102 B.U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2022). Abstract below:

Since the mid-1990s, American financial assistance programs have increasingly shifted to require evidence of labor market participation as a criteria for eligibility. This shift signals a change from previous welfare programs that were distributed principally based on unmet material need. The shift from need-based to income-tested income security programs has been lauded for increasing labor force participation. But in this shift, income security programs have failed to account for the labor of non-market care workers. These care workers, whose household production is a fundamental component of market life, experience both economic insolvency and tax-invisibility in the face of assistance systems that do not recognize care work as eligible labor. Because care work disproportionately falls to women in American homes, income-tested financial assistance programs place an outsized strain women’s economic lives. In this Article, I argue that income security programs that fail to recognize non-market care labor undermine women’s economic autonomy by constraining women’s personal labor choices. I propose that if financial assistance programs continue to require evidence of labor, then those programs should account for non-market labor as having equal status with market-based labor. Policymakers can use time-use surveys that record women’s time spent on household production as a way to recognize household production labor in administering tax-based income security programs.

New Article: What the Access to Justice Crisis Means for Legal Education

New Article: Kathryne M. Young, What the Access to Justice Crisis Means for Legal Education, 11 UC Irvine L. Rev. 811 (2021). Abstract below: 

Despite enormous social, legal, and technological shifts in the last century, the structure of legal education has remained largely unchanged. Part of the reason so little change has occurred is that the current model mostly “works”; it produces a professional class of lawyers to populate the ranks of law firms and government entities. At the same time, for decades, legal education researchers have considered it practically axiomatic that law school has room for improvement.

In this Article, I argue that the access to justice crisis—a deficit of just resolutions to justiciable civil justice problems for everyday people—compels an overdue examination of legal education’s scope and purpose. If we assume that lawyers should have a major role in solving the access to justice crisis, as opposed to simply meeting individual legal needs, law schools must prepare lawyers to serve this role. I point to three categories of improvement that centering access to justice would necessitate: teaching a greater versatility of thinking and problem-solving, imparting a broader understanding of the ecosystem of justiciable problems and lawyers’ place in it, and structuring law school to impart the cognitive cornerstones needed for successful legal practice.

Placing access to justice at the center of legal education would strengthen, not supplant, the traditional model. In addition to equipping lawyers to address everyday Americans’ justice problems, this Article’s proposals would make the legal profession nimbler and more resilient to social, economic, and technological changes, and help overcome some of the profession’s most intractable problems.

New Article: Guaranteed Income Programs Spread, City by City

New Article: Kurtis Lee, Guaranteed Income Programs Spread, City by City, N.Y. Times (Sept. 10 2022). Excerpt Below:

Early in the pandemic, Alondra Barajas had a temporary job for the Census Bureau, doing phone work from the two-bedroom apartment she shared with her mother and four younger siblings. When that job ended in late 2020, she struggled to find employment.

But Ms. Barajas learned from an ad on Instagram that she might qualify for an unusual form of assistance: monthly payments of $1,000 for a year.

Since she started receiving the funds this year — while caring for her newborn, searching for a job and looking for a new place to stay — her outlook has seemed brighter.

“It’s helped me from hitting rock bottom,” she said.

The payments are part of a pilot program from the city of Los Angeles, one of the nation’s largest experiments with a guaranteed income. The idea is that the best way to close the wealth gap and give people the opportunity to build a more stable life is to provide unrestricted cash payments to some of the most vulnerable Americans.

New Article: Debt Governance, Wealth Management and the Uneven Burdens of Child Support

New Article: Allison Tait, Debt Governance, Wealth Management, and the Uneven Burdens of Child Support, 117(1) Nw. U. L. Rev. 305 (2022). Abstract Below:

Child support is a ubiquitous kind of debt, common to all income and wealth levels, with data showing that approximately 30% of the U.S. adult population has either been subject to paying child support or has received it. Across this field of child support debt, however, unpaid obligations look different for everyone, and in particular the experiences around child support debt diverge radically for low-income populations and high-wealth ones. On the low-income end of the spectrum, child support debt is a sophisticated and adaptive governance technology that disciplines and penalizes those living in or near poverty. Being in child support debt on the high-wealth end of the spectrum, however, produces completely opposite outcomes. Child support payors with wealth have the ability to insulate themselves from debt and the consequences of nonpayment in ways that other families and individuals can never replicate. In this way, child support debt is a legal and financial formation that embodies divergent rules, disparate modes of enforcement, and unequal opportunities. It is a bimodal system that punishes low-income debtors and exculpates high-wealth ones across racialized and differentiated populations. And, understood in this way, the system is an amalgam of oppressive but supple forces that bear traces of the imperial, the colonial, the historical, and the inherited.

New Article: Why the poor suffer most from inflation, even though their wages have risen a lot

New Article: Catherine Rampell, Opinion – Why the poor suffer most from inflation, even though their wages have risen a lot, The Washington Post (Feb. 22, 2022). Excerpt below: 

Who’s suffering most from inflation right now? What about when you take into account how much faster wages have risen at the bottom of the income distribution than at the top?

There’s been a lot of debate about these questions. The White House and some economists have suggested that lower-income workers have been largely shielded from the pain of price increases because their raises have outpaced inflation. In real terms, living standards for lower-income, working families look like they should be rising.

But that’s at odds with how families describe their finances. In survey after survey, lower-income families are much more likely than higher-income ones to say they’re enduring hardship due to price hikes.