Category Archives: Teaching Poverty Law

Suggestions of Readings for the 2nd Edition of the Poverty Law Textbook?

Progress is being made on the second edition of the Juliet Brodie et al., Poverty Law textbook. If you have suggestions of pieces, articles, or readings for consideration for the next edition, please email me. Thank you!

The College Entrance Fiasco: A Mega Blog Post featuring Commentary & Scholarship

In the News:

Devlin Barrett & Matt Zapotosky, FBI accuses wealthy parents, including celebrities, in college-entrance bribery scheme, Wash. Post, Mar. 12, 2019.

Libby Nelson, The real college admissions scandal is what’s legal, Vox, Mar. 12, 2019.  “The scheme only worked because college admissions in America is broken.”

Joe Pinsker, Why Rich Parents Are So Set on Their Kids Going to Top Colleges, The Atlantic, Mar. 13, 2019. “There are plenty of examples of young people who go to all kinds of different schools who lead very successful and fulfilling lives, regardless of the name on their diploma,” . . . that may be true, but it’s harder to convey on a bumper sticker.

EJ Dickson, 9 of the Most WTF Details from the College Admissions Scandal Court Docs, Rolling Stone, Mar. 12, 2019.

Christal Hayes, College admissions scam rekindles scrutiny of Kushner’s Harvard acceptance, $2.5M pledge, USA Today, Mar. 12, 2019.


William G. Bowen, Martin A. Kurzweil, and Eugene M. Tobin, Equity and Excellent in American Higher Education (2006).


Despite our rhetoric of inclusiveness, a significant number of youth from poor families do not share equal access to America’s elite colleges and universities. While America has achieved the highest level of educational attainment of any country, it runs the risk of losing this position unless it can markedly improve the precollegiate preparation of students from racial minorities and lower-income families. After identifying the “equity” problem at the national level and studying nineteen selective colleges and universities, the authors propose a set of potential actions to be taken at federal, state, local, and institutional levels. With recommendations ranging from reform of the admissions process, to restructuring of federal financial aid and state support of public universities, to addressing the various precollegiate obstacles that disadvantaged students face at home and in school, the authors urge all selective colleges and universities to continue race-sensitive admissions policies, while urging the most selective (and privileged) institutions to enroll more well-qualified students from families with low socioeconomic status.

Jerome Karabel, The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (2005). 

61HwuCVjihL.jpgMany of Karabel’s findings are astonishing: the admission of blacks into the Ivy League wasn’t an idealistic response to the civil rights movement but a fearful reaction to inner-city riots; Yale and Princeton decided to accept women only after realizing that they were losing men to colleges (such as Harvard and Stanford) that had begun accepting “the second sex”; Harvard had a systematic quota on “intellectuals” until quite recently; and discrimination against Asian Americans in the 1980s mirrored the treatment of Jews earlier in the century.

Thomas J. Espenshade & Alexandria Walton Radford, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life (2009).


The authors explore the composition of applicant pools, factoring in background and “selective admission enhancement strategies”–including AP classes, test-prep courses, and extracurriculars–to assess how these strengthen applications. On campus, the authors examine roommate choices, friendship circles, and degrees of social interaction, and discover that while students from different racial and class circumstances are not separate in college, they do not mix as much as one might expect. The book encourages greater interaction among student groups and calls on educational institutions to improve access for students of lower socioeconomic status.


Gabrielle Bluestone, The college admissions scam is the perfect scandal in the golden age of grifters, Wash. Post, Mar. 13, 2019. “Part of what makes the Varsity Blues scandal so resonant is that it bluntly exposed workarounds that already exist to undermine higher education’s facade of meritocracy. It has long been legal — if distasteful — for wealthy parents to bribe colleges . . . .”

Rainesford Stauffer, I Learned in College That Admission Has Always Been for Sale, NY Times, Mar. 13, 2019. “The bribery scandal is no more abhorrent than the completely legal industry that helps many wealthy kids get into the schools of their dreams.”

New Article: The Problem of Wage Theft

New Article: Nicole Hallett, The Problem of Wage Theft, 37 Yale L. & Pol’y Rev. (2018). Abstract below:

Wage theft inflicts serious harm on America’s working poor but has received little attention from policymakers seeking to address income inequality in the United States. This Article provides a comprehensive analysis of the causes of the wage theft crisis and the failure of the current enforcement regime to address it. It argues that existing policy reforms will fail, because they misunderstand the nature of the crisis and the incentives that employers face when deciding to steal workers’ wages. It then proposes series of reforms that could work, while arguing that changing the economic calculus alone will be unlikely to solve the problem if social norms remain unchanged.


New Blog Post, Double Feature! Property Law as Poverty Law & The Racial Wealth Gap and the Question of Time Zero

New Blog Post, Double Feature!  Michelle Wilde Anderson, Property Law as Poverty Law & The Racial Wealth Gap and the Question of Time Zero, L. & Pol. Econ. Blog, Feb. 7, 2019.


New Article: The Prison to Homelessness Pipeline: Criminal Record Checks, Race, and Disparate Impact

New Article: Valerie Schneider, The Prison to Homelessness Pipeline: Criminal Record Checks, Race, and Disparate Impact, 93 Ind. L. J. 421 (2018).  Abstract below:

Study after study has shown that securing housing upon release from prison is critical to reducing the likelihood of recidivism, yet those with criminal records— a population that disproportionately consists of racial minorities—are routinely denied access to housing, even if their offense was minor and was shown to have no bearing on whether the applicant would be likely to be a successful renter. In April of 2016, the Office of General Counsel for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued much anticipated guidance dealing directly with the racially disparate impact of barring those with criminal records from public and private housing.

After decades of seeming to encourage local public housing providers to adopt harsh policies barring applicants with criminal records regardless of the nature or recency of the crime, the Obama-era guidance from HUD represents a sea change in federal policy and will force local housing authorities to grapple with the potentially disparate impacts of harsh criminal record policies. The guidance is particularly timely, given that HUD issued a rule clarifying the burden of proof in disparate impact cases in 2013 and the Supreme Court affirmed that disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act in its 2015 decision in Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.  Additionally, while the Trump administration seems focused on rolling back Obama-era protections in some arenas, this guidance has remained in place. Even if withdrawn by HUD, the guidance has already inspired local policies restricting the use of criminal background checks in housing decisions potentially giving rise to a new era for those seeking housing after being released from prison.  This Article first puts the problem of using criminal records to evaluate potential tenants into historical context, discussing the particular impact of the rising rates of incarceration on minority communities. Next, the Article delves into the guidance itself, examining what it does and does not require of housing providers, with a focus on public housing. Finally, the Article provides insight into what is missing from the guidance, what might be done to strengthen it, how advocates might use it, and how housing providers might work to limit both their legal exposure and moral culpability related to the disparate impact the use of criminal records in housing decisions has on minorities.

Report: Minimally adequate (Part Two): No accident of history

New Report: Jennifer Berry Hawes, Seanna Adcox, Paul Bowers, Thad Moore, & Glenn Smith, Minimally Adequate (Part Two): No accident of history, The Post and Courier.

Echoes of segregation still permeate SC’s education system, placing black students in peril.

New Article: Vulnerability, Access to Justice, and the Fragmented State

New Article: Elizabeth L. MacDowell, Vulnerability, Access to Justice, and the Fragmented State, 23 Mich. J. Race & L. 51 (2018). Abstract below:

This Article builds on theories of the fragmented state and of human and institutional vulnerability to create a new, structural theory of “functional fragmentation” and its role in access to justice work. Expanding on previous concepts of fragmentation in access to justice scholarship, fragmentation is understood in the Article as a complex phenomenon existing within as well as between state institutions like courts. Further, it is examined in terms of its relationship to the state’s coercive power over poor people in legal systems. In this view, fragmentation in state operations creates not only challenges for access, but also opportunities for resistance, resilience, and justice. Focusing on problem-solving courts, and family courts in particular, the Article examines the intersection of human and institutional vulnerability within legal institutions and provides a framework for identifying ways to create greater access to justice. The Article contributes to state theory and the feminist theory of vulnerability, while providing a new way to understand and address an increasingly coercive state and its punitive effects on low-income people.

Quick note for adopters of the Brodie et al. Poverty Law textbook

Poverty Law CoverIf you are teaching from the Brodie et al. Poverty Law textbook this fall or next spring, I am happy to share updated slides that I have put together for the class. This is the first year I am teaching the class more as a lecture (demand went up and I felt bad capping the class) so I am putting more effort into the slides. So if you are interested just email me:

Reminders for those teaching poverty law and for readers of this blog

I decided it was time to send a couple of administrative reminders.

First, for those teaching poverty law or considering teaching poverty law, I am happy to talk through teaching options, share syllabi and powerpoint slides, etc. Just email me at It is a great class to teach so if your school does not offer it, consider taking it on. You get great students and the teaching options are not bad either. And if you have been teaching the class, my co-authors and I would love your thoughts on things you would like included in the next edition of the Juliet Brodie et al., Poverty Law book. It is also worth noting that our book has recently been joined by David Super’s new book (both of which could be supplemented by the Poverty Law Canon book for those who want more on the back story of the major cases).

Second, as a reminder, this blog feeds into both Facebook (under the Economic Justice Program at American University Washington College of Law banner, and Twitter (under @EzraRosser) for those who prefer to see content through either of those platforms. On Twitter you will see that I post some items–typically news articles as well as things less rigidly within the “poverty law” category, such as immigration and legal academic stuff–that do not appear on the blog and probably have a bit more attitude there than I do on the blog.

Finally, for readers who law professors, there is a poverty law listserv. It is relatively silent most of the year but calls for papers, etc, do sometimes get sent to it. If you want to join the listserv (or want to no longer get such emails), just email me.

Hope you are having a great summer!

Website: Money Diaries

This is not strictly poverty law and most (but not all) postings are from people making middle class and upper class salaries, but the website money diaries might be of interest, particularly to those who teach poverty law. Some version of this activity might be interesting to do in class as a way of getting at the degree to which the poor are judged for their spending.