Category Archives: Poverty Governance

New Article: Longer Trips to Court Cause Evictions

New Article: David A. Hoffman and Anton Strezhnev, Longer Trips to Court Cause Evictions, (2022). Abstract below:

Studying ~200,000 evictions filed against ~300,000 Philadelphians from 2005 through 2021, we focus on the role of transit to court in preventing tenants from asserting their rights. Over the time period, nearly 40% of all tenants were forced to leave their residences because they didn’t show up to contest cases against them. An important driver of that result is easy access to the courthouse. Controlling for a variety of potential confounds at the tenant and landlord level, residents of private tenancies with longer mass transit travel time to the courthouse are more likely to default. A one hour increase in estimated travel time increases the probability of default by between 3.9 to 8.6 percentage points across different model specifications. The effect holds within landlords, when controlling for the direct distance to court and even weekend travel time. However, it is absent in public housing evictions, where timing rules are significantly laxer, and during Covid-19, when tenants had the opportunity to be present virtually. We estimate that had all tenants been equally able to get to court in 10 minutes or less, there would have been 4,000 to 9,000 fewer default evictions over the sample period. These results open up a new way to study physical determinants of access to justice, illustrating that where a courthouse is located—and its relationship to urban transit—can affect individual case outcomes. We consequently suggest that increased use of video technology in court may reduce barriers to justice.

New Article: Race to Property: Racial Distortions of Property Law, 1634 to Today

New Article: Bethany Berger, Race to Property: Racial Distortions of Property Law, 1634 to Today, Ariz. L. Rev. (2022, forthcoming). Abstract below:

Race shaped property law for everyone in the United States, and we are all the poorer for it. This transformation began in the colonial era, when demands for Indian land annexation and a slave-based economy created new legal innovations in recording, foreclosure, and commodification of property. It continued in the antebellum era, when these same processes elevated nationalized property transactions over other rights; and gained new tactics after the end of slavery through the early twentieth century, when the pursuit of racial hierarchy expanded private owners’ rights to exclude and tied occupation of physical space to status. The influence of race on property became even more insidious in the modern era. As twentieth century courts and legislatures incrementally outlawed de jure discrimination, a new regime took its place. This hidden Jim Crow first transformed home finance and zoning to make residence in exclusionary enclaves central to family wealth, and then tied public goods like schools, recreation, transportation, and welfare to residence in those fragmented communities.

These racial projects deeply scarred how property is acquired, regulated, and distributed regardless of race. They have made our cities poorer, our homes more expensive and less secure from foreclosure, our public goods less public, and our social safety net less safe. They have lengthened our commutes, privatized our pools, and impoverished our schools. They have undermined the income mobility that was once America’s pride.

Opponents of reform often invoke property rights to support their claims. The history presented in this Article, however, shows that many of the rules of our system were significantly about race, not property. They were not designed, as property norms dictate, to enhance security, abundance, and distribution of resources. Instead, in part, their purpose was to exclude, dispossess, and dominate racial groups. Reform, therefore, does not undermine property. Rather, in many cases, it achieves what justifies the property system in the first place.

New Article: How to Design An Antiracist State and Local Tax System

New Article: Francine J. Lipman, How to Design An Antiracist State and Local Tax System, Seton Hall L. Rev. (2022). Abstract below:

Since the first ship of enslaved African people landed in Virginia in 1619, racist policies in institutions, systems, structures, practices, and laws have ensured inequity for people of color. These racist policies include every imaginable variant of injustice from slavery to lynching, to segregation, and to economic injustices, including those delivered through tax systems today. Although facially color-blind, tax systems have long empowered the explosion of white wealth and undermined wealth accumulation for Black families and communities of color. State and local tax systems, especially in the South, have deeply-rooted racist fiscal policies, including Jim Crow laws that continue to sustain and bolster racial inequality today. These injustices have become even more obvious during the global pandemic.

As Americans struggle with COVID-19 and its aftermath, racial inequality has become even more salient. People of color have suffered higher rates of unemployment, impoverishment, infection, and death from COVID-19. Moreover, scientists, economists, engineers, and doctors agree that racism, not race, is the cause of this disproportionate impact. As we struggle to battle COVID-19 and rebuild from its devastation, federal, state, and local governments have used many tools, including tax systems. In 2021, the federal government, together with twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, enacted significant tax cuts, with nearly all states cutting individual income tax rates and many tax systems meaningfully delivering expanded tax credits for workers and their children.

With race increasingly front and center as a cause of economic inequality, this Article applies Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s transformative concept of antiracism as the framework to rethink state and local tax systems to better serve all Americans. Deriving an antiracist framework from decades of exhaustive research, Dr. Kendi, a professor of history, international relations, and an award-winning author, has facilitated a broader understanding of racism, its poisonous consequences, and most importantly provides antiracist tools to dismantle it.

New Article: Dispossession: An American Property Law Tradition

New Article: Sherally Munshi, Dispossession: An American Property Law Tradition, 110 Geo. L. J. 2 (2022, forthcoming). Abstract below:

Universities and law schools have begun to purge the symbols of conquest and slavery from their crests and campuses, but they have yet to come to terms with their role in reproducing the material and ideological conditions of settler colonialism and racial capitalism. This Article considers the role the property law tradition has played in shaping and legitimizing regimes of racialized dispossession past and present. It intervenes in the traditional presentation of property law by arguing that dispossession describes an ongoing but disavowed function of property law. As a counter-narrative and critique of property, dispossession is a useful concept for challenging existing property arrangements, often rationalized within liberal and legal discourse.

New Book: NonProfit Neighborhoods

Nonprofit NeighborhoodsNew Book: Claire Dunning, NonProfit Neighborhoods (2022). Overview below:

An exploration of how and why American city governments delegated the responsibility for solving urban inequality to the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofits serving a range of municipal and cultural needs are now so ubiquitous in US cities, it can be difficult to envision a time when they were more limited in number, size, and influence. Turning back the clock, however, uncovers both an illuminating story of how the nonprofit sector became such a dominant force in American society, as well as a troubling one of why this growth occurred alongside persistent poverty and widening inequality. Claire Dunning’s book connects these two stories in histories of race, democracy, and capitalism, revealing how the federal government funded and deputized nonprofits to help individuals in need, and in so doing avoided addressing the structural inequities that necessitated such action in the first place.

New Article: “We Pay to Keep the Old Out of Povery. Why Don’t We Do the Same for the Young?”

New Article: Bryce Covert, We Pay to Keep the Old Out of Poverty. Why Don’t We Do the Same for the Young?, N.Y. Times (May 7, 2022). Excerpt below:

The United States has an incredibly high child poverty rate. Nearly one in seven children lives in a poor family. By comparison, fewer than 10 percent of adults are poor, and under 9 percent of those age 65 and over are. Child poverty also doesn’t fall evenly across demographics: 71 percent of poor children are Black, Hispanic or Native American.

But child poverty is not a problem without a solution. Americans may roll their eyes at being constantly compared unfavorably with Western European countries, but in this case we aren’t just bested by the usual suspects. The United States is a pretty extreme outlier. Out of 40 countries, America ranks 38th, behind not just Finland, Denmark, Germany and France but also Slovenia, Estonia, Russia and Mexico.

New Article: Discriminatory Cooperative Federalism

New Article: Ava Ayers, Discriminatory Cooperative Federalism, Vill. L. Rev. (2021). Abstract Below:

Under the Equal Protection Clause, states can’t (with certain exceptions) discriminate against noncitizens. But Congress can. Sometimes, Congress tries to share this power to discriminate with states. This Article looks at cases in which Congress supports state discrimination using cooperative federalism. (The phrase “cooperative federalism” refers to a form of lawmaking in which Congress induces or allows states to play a role in federally-created regulatory schemes.) For example, multiple provisions of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 aim to encourage states to deny public benefits to noncitizens. The Welfare Reform Act attempts to work around the Equal Protection Clause by sharing with the states Congress’s plenary power to treat noncitizens differently. It thus represents a form of cooperative federalism whose goal is discrimination. Cooperative-federalism schemes require the involvement of two actors, federal and subfederal, each subject to their own legal constraints. In the immigration context, discriminatory cooperative federalism is vulnerable to challenges aimed at the federal actions (like claims that Congress has impermissibly delegated its power) and challenges aimed at the states’ actions (like equal-protection challenges). Distinguishing the federal and state components of these challenges significantly clarifies the analytical picture, and, for advocates, the plan of attack.

News Coverage: Covid-19 has Exacerbated Child Poverty, Forcing a Long Overdue Policy Focus

William A. Haseltine, Covid-19 has Exacerbated Child Poverty, Forcing a Long Overdue Policy Focus, Forbes (Mar. 27, 2021 1:24 PM). Except below:

Before Covid-19, the poverty rate in America had been on a slow decline, but the pandemic has stalled—if not reversed—that progress. Among the hardest hit are children from low-income families, where school closures and the high cost of childcare forced previously employed parents to give up their jobs and income to care for their kids. This vicious cycle of poverty among parents and children is becoming an important part of the policy debate in the US and President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan. 

New Book: Redistributing the Poor

Armando Lara-Millan, Redistributing the Poor (2021). Description below:

Whenever the topic of large jails and public hospitals in urban America is raised, a single idea comes to mind. It is widely believed that because we as a society have dis-invested from public health, the sick and poor now find themselves within the purview of criminal justice institutions. In Redistributing the Poor, ethnographer and historical sociologist Armando Lara-Millán takes us into the day-to-day operations of running the largest hospital and jail system in the world and argues that such received wisdom is a drastic mischaracterization of the way that states govern urban poverty at the turn of the 21st century. Rather than focus on our underinvestment of health and overinvestment of criminal justice, his idea of “redistributing the poor” draws attention to how state agencies circulate people between different institutional spaces in such a way that generates revenue for some agencies, cuts costs for others, and projects illusions that services have been legally rendered. By centering the state’s use of redistribution, Lara-Millán shows how certain forms of social suffering-the premature death of mainly poor, people of color-are not a result of the state’s failure to act, but instead the necessary outcome of so-called successful policy.

New Article: Both sides of the Paycheck: Recommending Thrift to the Poor Readiness Programs

Note: Article May Be Behind A Paywall

New Article: Brian Hennigan & Gretchen Purser, Both sides of the Paycheck: Recommending Thrift to the Poor Readiness Programs, Critical Socio. (Oct. 14, 2020).

This article documents how job readiness programs—as anchors of the devolved organizational landscape of neoliberal poverty governance in the United States—endeavor to instill within the poor not simply the virtue of work, but the virtue of thrift, and thus orient them to “both sides of the paycheck.” Using a comparative ethnographic study of two community-based, government-funded nonprofit job readiness programs, we show that this pedagogic focus on budgeting is central to the overall goal of conditioning clients to embrace and endure a degraded labor market. Recognizing that most participants will remain poor with or without low-wage employment, these programs suggest that it is as crafty consumers that participants may retake control of their lives. Despite the programs’ differing target populations and racialized and gendered logics, both attempt to accommodate participants to the dictates of the neoliberal economic order: jobs are hard to find and, even if you get one, wages will not be enough.