Category Archives: Gender Issues

Article: Poverty and the Hidden Effects of Sex Discrimination: An Empirical Study of Inequality

Article: Gregory R. Day & Salvatore J. Russo, Poverty and the Hidden Effects of Sex Discrimination: An Empirical Study of Inequality, 37 Penn. J. Int’l L. 1183 (2016).

Sexist laws are more prevalent in regions where poverty is endemic. The corollary is true as well: the places where women tend to experience better treatment are typically more highly developed. The legal academy has drawn several inferences from this observation, including the observations that poverty and the development process appear to be detrimental to women’s rights. But despite the strength of this relationship, few legal studies seek to understand precisely why gender inequality seems to be inextricably linked to poverty.

Our research finds the opposite of what is generally assumed: the act of depriving women of fundamental rights is the very cause of underdevelopment. First, using a law and economic approach, sexist laws appear to create perverse behavioral incentives whereby actors rationally engage in inefficient behaviors. This is because sexist laws, in contrast to other forms of discrimination, burden society’s basic economic unit—the family. For instance, regions that prohibit women from earning a wage depress the rate of investment since single-income families must approach the market overcautiously. These deductions are then supported by an original empirical analysis, which indicates that gender inequality and poverty are significantly and powerfully connected. Sexist laws are thus less the result of underdevelopment as much as its very cause.

Podcast: Busted: America’s Poverty Myths

Podcast: Busted: America’s Poverty Myths, from On the Media

#1: The Poverty Tour

#2: Who Deserves to Be Poor?

#3: Rags to Riches

#4: When the Safety Net Doesn’t Catch You

#5: Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Poverty in American Edition



Call-for-Papers: “2017 Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights”

If/When/How, in collaboration with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at Berkeley Law School, is currently accepting submissions for the twelfth annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights.

This year’s suggested theme is “Balancing Burdens and Benefits after Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.” However, submissions on other topics will also be accepted. For more information, please download the Call for Submissions. The deadline for submission is Monday, February 27, 2017.


Winning authors will receive cash prizes: $750 (first place), $500 (second place), or $250 (third place). Additionally, each winning author will receive a copy of the casebook Cases on Reproductive Rights and Justice, by Melissa Murray and Kristin Luker. The first place winner will also have a chance at publication with the NYU Review of Law and Social Change.


News Article: “In a California Valley, Healthy Food Everywhere but on the Table”

News Article: Thomas Fuller, “In a California Valley, Healthy Food Everywhere but on the Table,” N.Y. Times, Nov. 23, 2016.

News Article: “For Melinda Gates, Birth Control Is Women’s Way Out of Poverty”

News Article: Celia W. Dugger, “For Melinda Gates, Birth Control Is Women’s Way Out of Poverty,” New York Times, Nov. 1, 2016.

Article: “Racial and Gender Justice in the Child Welfare and Child Support Systems”

Article: Margaret F. Brinig, “Racial and Gender Justice in the Child Welfare and Child Support Systems,” 35 Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice (forthcoming).

While divorcing couples in the United States have been studied for many years, separating unmarried couples and their children have proven more difficult to analyze. Recently there have been successful longitudinal ethnographic and survey-based studies. This piece uses documents from a single Indiana county’s unified family court (called the Probate Court) to trace the effects of race and gender on unmarried families, beginning with a sample of 386 children for whom paternity petitions were brought in four months of 2008. It confirms prior theoretical work on racial differences in noncustodial parenting and poses new questions about how incarceration and gender affect low income families.


Article: “En-Gendering Economic Inequality”

Article: Michele E. Gilman, “En-Gendering Economic Inequality,” Colum. J. Gender & L. (forthcoming).

We live in an era of growing economic inequality. Luminaries ranging from the President to the Pope to economist Thomas Piketty in his bestselling book Capital in the Twenty- First Century have raised alarms about the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Overlooked, however, in these important discussions is the reality that economic inequality is not a uniform experience; rather, its effects fall more harshly on women and minorities. With regard to gender, American women have higher rates of poverty and get paid less than comparable men, and their workplace participation rates are falling. Yet economic inequality is neither inevitable nor intractable. Given that the government creates the rules of the market, it is essential to analyze the government’s role in perpetuating economic inequality.

This Article specifically examines the role of the Supreme Court in contributing to gender based economic inequality. The thesis is that the Supreme Court applies oversimplified economic assumptions about the market in its decision-making, thereby perpetuating economic inequality on the basis of gender. Applying insights of feminist economic theory, the Article analyzes recent Supreme Court jurisprudence about women workers, including Wal-Mart v. Dukes (denying class certification to female employees who were paid and promoted less than men), Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (granting business owners the right to deny contraception coverage to female employees on religious grounds), and Harris v. Quinn (limiting the ability of home health care workers to unionize and thereby improve their working conditions). In these cases, the Court elevates its narrow view of efficiency over more comprehensive understandings, devalues care work, upholds harmful power imbalances, and ignores the intersectional reality of the lives of low-wage women workers. The Article concludes that the Court is eroding collective efforts by women to improve their working conditions and economic standing. It suggests advocacy strategies for reforming law to obtain economic justice for women and their families.

Op-Ed: “Papa’s Not a Rolling Stone: Low-Income Men and Their Children”

Op-Ed: Natasha J. Cabrera & Ron Mincy, Papa’s Not a Rolling Stone: Low-Income Men and Their Children, American Prospect, Aug. 19, 2016.


New Article: “Structural Subjugation: Theorizing Racialized Sexual Harassment in Housing”

New Article: Kate Sablosky Elengold, Structural Subjugation: Theorizing Racialized Sexual Harassment in Housing, 27 Yale J. L. & Feminism 227 (2016).  Abstract below:

This Article identifies and analyzes the structural forces that permit and ignore racialized sexual harassment in housing. Although scholarship on sexual harassment in housing is sparse, the existing research and resulting body of law generally advances a narrative focused on the female tenants’ economic vulnerability and violation of the sanctity of her home. The narrative advanced in scholarship and advocacy, along with the resulting jurisprudence, presents an archetype of a deviant male landlord abusing his authority to take advantage of women sexually who, because of their economic circumstances, have no alternatives. This Article terms it the “dirty old man” narrative. Drawing attention to the racialized sexual harassment that lies beneath the stock story for many African American female tenants, this Article dismantles that narrative. The purpose of the scholarship is two-fold. The first is to expose, for the first time, the undercurrent of racialized sexual victimization that is absent from the “dirty old man” narrative. To do that, this project methodically examines court filings in sexual harassment cases brought by the Attorney General under the federal Fair Housing Act and analyzes the entire body of federal and state court opinions assessing residential sexual harassment claims. The second objective is to identify the structural factors — cultural acceptance of the “Black Jezebel” myth, legal rights, access, and generational economic and racial hierarchies — that operate together to perpetuate racialized sexual harassment in rental housing, an analysis that draws on social science research, along with critical race, critical feminist, and intersectionality theories. This Article contends that those structural forces are the same factors that have operated to permit and hide the sexual subjugation of Black women in the private sphere throughout history — during slavery, as domestic workers, and in the present-day failure to prosecute sexual assault against Black women. Ultimately, it argues that the prevailing “dirty old man” narrative risks silencing both the individual stories of racialized sexual harassment at home and the larger conversation about the structural forces permitting and ignoring the abuse.

New Article: “Domestic Violence and the Politics of Self-Help”

New Article: Elizabeth L. MacDowell, Domestic Violence and the Politics of Self-Help, 22 William & Mary J. Women & the Law 203 (2016).  Abstract below:

Self-help programs are conceptualized as alternatives to attorney representation that can help both courts and unrepresented litigants. The rhetoric of self-help also typically includes empowering unrepresented individuals to help themselves. But how do self-help programs respond to litigants’ efforts at self-advocacy? This Article reports findings from a study of courthouse self-help programs assisting unrepresented litigants applying for protection orders. The central finding is that self-help staff members were not neutral in the provision of services despite a professed ethic of neutrality. Using the sociological concept of demeanor, this Article shows that staff members rewarded protection order applicants who conformed to stereotypes about domestic violence victims and responded negatively to litigants who raised questions or sought assistance outside the scope of narrowly defined services. Staff members also failed to provide assistance with important economic remedies and de-prioritized safety planning and referrals to vital antiviolence services. In these and other ways, staff members influenced what relief was sought and by whom. This finding is especially troubling given the overarching goals of domestic violence protection orders to increase safety and empower low-income women, and has broad implications for studying access to justice and law and social movements. This Article also contributes to the analysis of demeanor by expanding previous typologies with the addition of two new categories: token supportive demeanor, and apathetic demeanor. These additions further account for how authority is displayed in legal settings, and how law is implemented through everyday interactions as well as formal decision-making.