New Book: Wealth NOMOS LVIII (Jack Knight and Melissa Schwartzberg eds. 2017).
New Book: Wealth NOMOS LVIII (Jack Knight and Melissa Schwartzberg eds. 2017).
News Article: Emma Green, “Wealthy Women Can Afford to Reject Marriage, but Poor Women Can’t“, The Atlantic, Jan. 15, 2016.
I missed the publication of this symposium by the Yale Law and Policy Review so here it is a bit dated:
Law and Inequality: An American Constitution Society Conference at Yale Law School
October 16 and 17, 2015
News Article: Joshua Holland, “The Average Black Family Would Need 228 Years to Build the Wealth of a White Family Today“, The Nation, August 8, 2016.
New Article: Wendy A. Bach, Poor Support/Rich Support: (Re)Viewing the American Social Welfare State, forthcoming Florida Tax Rev. 2017. Abstract below:
Since at least the 1970s a variety of scholars have redefined the U.S. social welfare state to include not only traditional benefit programs (for example Food Stamps and social security) but also a variety of tax benefits that are “hidden” or “submerged” forms of “welfare for the wealthy.” Including these benefits in the overall picture of U.S. social welfare provision reveals a system that is both larger in size than popularly believed and that, in addition to providing some support for the poor, distributes significant benefits regressively, to households with substantial wealth. Although a variety of scholars and policy analysts have described these outcomes, scholars have yet to focus on the ways in which structural inequality is written directly into the means of administration of U.S. social welfare programs. This article is the first to turn to those questions and to systematically demonstrate that those who are economically (and disproportionately racially) disadvantaged are offered a social welfare state that is meager, punitive and tremendously risky for those who receive its benefits. But for those with economic privilege, the story is quite different. Families and individuals with significant economic privilege benefit disproportionately from a whole host of cash and near-cash benefits that are neither meager nor punitive. In fact, in contrast to benefits for the poor, benefits for the rich function as nearly invisible entitlements. As one moves from benefits for the poor towards benefits for the rich the administrative structures shift along this progression, becoming less and less punitive and risky and more and more like invisible entitlements. Although as a formal matter the rich, like the poor, have no right to economic support in the Constitutional sense, American social welfare policy moves the rich remarkably close to a right to economic support, leaving the poor far behind. This article reveals these vast structural inequalities and concludes by calling not only, as others have, for an increase and more progressive distribution of social welfare dollars but also, for the first time, for reforms that would address the structural inequalities at the heart of the U.S. social welfare state and that would render it more successful at supporting the autonomy and resilience of all of its beneficiaries.
Article: Mary Madden, et al., Privacy, Poverty and Big Data: A Matrix of Vulnerabilities for Poor Americans, Washington L. Rev. (forthcoming 2017).
This Article examines the matrix of vulnerabilities that low-income people face as a result of the collection and aggregation of big data and the application of predictive analytics. On the one hand, big data systems could reverse growing economic inequality by expanding access to opportunities for low-income people. On the other hand, big data could widen economic gaps by making it possible to prey on low-income people or to exclude them from opportunities due to biases that get entrenched in algorithmic decision-making tools. New kinds of “networked privacy” harms, in which users are simultaneously held liable for their own behavior and the actions of those in their networks, may have particularly negative impacts on the poor. This Article reports on original empirical findings from a large, nationally-representative telephone survey with an oversample of low-income American adults and highlights how these patterns make particular groups of low-status internet users uniquely vulnerable to various forms of surveillance and networked privacy-related problems. In particular, a greater reliance on mobile connectivity, combined with lower usage of privacy-enhancing strategies may contribute to various privacy and security-related harms. The article then discusses three scenarios in which big data – including data gathered from social media inputs – is being aggregated to make predictions about individual behavior: employment screening, access to higher education, and predictive policing. Analysis of the legal frameworks surrounding these case studies reveals a lack of legal protections to counter digital discrimination against low-income people. In light of these legal gaps, the Article assesses leading proposals for enhancing digital privacy through the lens of class vulnerability, including comprehensive consumer privacy legislation, digital literacy, notice and choice regimes, and due process approaches. As policymakers consider reforms, the article urges greater attention to impacts on low-income persons and communities.
Article: John Infranca, Spaces for Sharing: Micro Units Amid the Shift from Ownership to Access, 43 Fordham Urb. L.J. (forthcoming).
This article, written for the Fordham Urban Law Journal’s symposium entitled Sharing Economy, Sharing City: Urban Law and the New Economy, explores the interaction between the sharing or peer-to-peer economy and new forms of housing, particularly micro-units. Certain components of the sharing economy, such as car sharing and co-working, rely on sufficient demand, typically produced by residents within close proximity to an asset-hub. Trade in the idle capacity of privately-owned goods frequently depends upon potential users sufficiently nearby to render sharing convenient. Land use regulations that permit development of micro-units may increase density to levels that better support a sharing economy infrastructure. The sharing economy is also frequently invoked to explain consumer demand for such units – as potential residents choose to forego space and rely on shared resources. Developers have sought to make micro-units more attractive to potential residents by providing access, sometimes on-site, to car and bicycle sharing. Such resources also may ease worries of neighbors concerned about increased density and some local governments have begun to consider the provision of sharing economy infrastructure in the land use approval process. In addition, certain new forms of residential development more expressly incorporate a culture of sharing and at times explicitly identify as a component of the sharing economy.
This article sketches out some of the theoretical and practical implications of the relationship between micro-units and housing more generally and the sharing economy. Even as many micro-unit residents embrace the sharing economy to complement their small living spaces, these units provide residents with an alternative to perhaps the simplest form of contemporary property sharing – living with roommates. They represent a turn away from certain informal sharing of property (kitchen items and food, living room furniture, music and book collections) towards more formal sharing through the peer-to-peer economy. The new exchanges of personal property facilitated by the sharing economy thereby simultaneously enable the increased privatization of an individual’s residence.
As the sharing economy reshapes cities it is also changing the types of housing demanded by urban residents. This article suggests that as cities revise existing regulations to respond to both the growing demand for micro-units and the expanding role of the sharing economy in urban areas, they should more carefully consider the potential synergies between these phenomena.
Article: Max Raskin, The Raisins of Wrath: The Constitutionality of Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts Following Horne v. USDA, 10 NYU J. L. & Liberty 857 (2016).
Interest on lawyers’ trust accounts (IOLTA) are programs that require lawyers to remit their some of their clients’ interest to the state. This money is used to fund legal aid programs. The Supreme Court, in a five-to-four 2003 decision in Brown v. Legal Foundation of Washington, upheld such a program against a Fifth Amendment takings challenge. This note argues that in light of subsequent Supreme Court jurisprudence, the Court’s reasoning in Brown is no longer tenable. The culmination of the post-Brown jurisprudence is Horne v. United States Department of Agriculture. Although the accounts are creations of the state, the benefits that flow from them cannot be unconstitutionally conditioned. Because no linkage can be drawn between providing free legal aid and the provision of IOLTA accounts, the interest remission requirement is unconstitutional.
Article: Matthew Dimick, Should the Law Do Anything About Economic Inequality?, SUNY Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-011 (2016).
What should be done about rising income and wealth inequality? Should the design and adoption of legal rules take into account their effects on the distribution of income and wealth? Or should the tax-and-transfer system be the exclusive means to address concerns about inequality? A widely-held view argues for the latter: only the tax system, and not the legal system, should be used to redistribute income. While this argument comes in a variety of normative arguments and has support across the political spectrum, there is also a well-known law-and-economics version. This argument, known as the “double-distortion” argument, is simply stated. Legal rules that redistribute income only add to the economic distortions that are already present in the tax system. It would therefore be better for everyone, and especially the poor, to instead adopt an efficient, nonredistributive legal rule, and increase redistribution through the tax system.
This Article challenges the double-distortion argument from a law-and-economics perspective. There are two main arguments, in addition to several other subsidiary points. First, in the abstract, there is no reason to believe that legal rules that have redistributive effects will always reduce efficiency; indeed, they can sometimes increase efficiency. Examples from the regulation of product markets, labor markets, and financial markets underscore this claim. In these cases, legal redistribution is more efficient than redistribution through the tax system. Second, legal rules are likely to be more attractive than taxation precisely in cases where inequality itself or normative concerns about inequality is high. Under the optimal tax policy, higher inequality or greater concern about inequality will justify larger tax distortions. Therefore, a particular legal rule is more likely to be more efficient than the optimal tax policy under these circumstances. The ultimate conclusion is that a mix of legal rules and taxation, rather than taxation exclusively, will be the best way to address economic inequality.