Confronting Poverty: Poverty Risk Calculator

Confronting Poverty: Poverty Risk Calculator worth checking out and perhaps sharing with students.

New Article: “After Flint: Environmental Justice as Equal Protection”

New Article: David A. Dana & Deborah Tuerkheimer, After Flint: Environmental Justice as Equal Protection, 111 Nw. U. L. Rev. 879 (2017).  Abstract below:

This Essay conceptualizes the Flint water crisis as an archetypical case of underenforcement—that is, a denial of the equal protection of laws guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Viewed as such, the inadequacy of environmental regulation can be understood as a failure that extends beyond the confines of Flint; a failure that demands a far more expansive duty to protect vulnerable populations.

New Article: “Poor Support/Rich Support: (Re)Viewing the American Social Welfare State”

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.

New Article: “Ban the Address: Combating Employment Discrimination Against the Homeless”

New Article: Sarah Golabek-Goldman, Ban the Address: Combating Employment Discrimination Against the Homeless, 126 Yale L.J. 1788 (2017).  Abstract below:

This Note presents a study of obstacles to employment faced by homeless job applicants and offers potential solutions. Homeless job applicants confront discrimination when they provide the address of a shelter or do not have an address to provide on applications. Advocates should seek to protect homeless job applicants by encouraging businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies to provide homeless applicants with addresses or P.O. boxes. Most significantly, the proposed “Ban the Address” campaign would discourage employers from inquiring about an applicant’s address or residency history until after granting a provisional offer of employment. Advocacy efforts such as these can serve as a foundation for successful legal claims under new homeless person’s bills of rights, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This Note explains why requesting residency information might be deemed illegal under both state and federal causes of action. A combination of both legal and nonlegal tactics has the best chance of permitting homeless job applicants to obtain employment and to regain self-sufficiency.

New Article: “In Defense of the Eligible Undocumented New Yorker’s State Constitutional Right to Public Benefits”

New Article: Steven Sacco, In Defense of the Eligible Undocumented New Yorker’s State Constitutional Right to Public Benefits, 40 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 181 (2016).  Abstract below:

Under current New York State law, undocumented New Yorkers, (those residing in the U.S. without the federal government’s permission), are ineligible for most state-funded means-tested public benefits, such as Medicaid and Safety Net Assistance. Articles XVII and I of the New York State Constitution nonetheless create a state mandate to provide for the eligible “needy” and ensure equal protection under the law, respectively. This article proposes that, under these state constitutional provisions, financially eligible undocumented residents of New York State possess an affirmative right to receive state-funded public benefits. Policy arguments against this entitlement are unfounded and barriers to enforcement of the right of undocumented New Yorkers to access state benefits are born of politics, not of the law.

New Article: “An Alternative View of Immigrant Exceptionalism, Particularly As It Relates to Black: A Response to Chua and Rubenfeld”

New(ish) Article: Eleanor Marie Lawrence Brown, An Alternative View of Immigrant Exceptionalism, Particularly As It Relates to Black: A Response to Chua and Rubenfeld, 103 Calif. L. Rev. 989 (2015).  Abstract below:

The contrast between Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld’s The Triple Package (Chua & Rubenfeld 2.0) and Chua’s previous work, World on Fire (Chua 1.0), is striking. Chua & Rubenfeld 2.0 contends that particular ethnic and religious groups are spectacularly successful in the United States because of a “triple package” of traits that are largely cultural; however, there is nary a word in Chua & Rubenfeld 2.0 about the role that law might play in contributing to wealth acquisition among the subject groups. In contrast, Chua 1.0 clearly acknowledges the role of law through “law-in-culture” when accounting for the wealth of those whom Chua calls “market- dominant minorities.” “Law-in-culture” consists of binding rules, such as default contract terms, that often underlie market relations in perilous “third world” environments. While these rules are not enforceable by the state, they are powerful because those who ignore them risk ostracism by their co-ethnics, with whom they often contract.

Perhaps because Chua & Rubenfeld 2.0 focuses on particular ethnic groups within the United States—a country that epitomizes the protection of property and contract rights—it overlooks the potential role of “law-in-culture” in accounting for wealth acquisition of particular groups. This oversight is significant. Many of the subject ethnic groups had contracting advantages underwritten by “law-in- culture” in their countries of origin.

I am particularly concerned about the absence of a discussion of institutions—whether underwritten by “law” or “law-in-culture”— when Chua & Rubenfeld 2.0 discusses Black people. A case in question is Nigerian Americans. Given their focus on Nigerian American economic success, a comparison to African American economic success (or lack thereof) is foreseeable. The question is inevitable: if Nigerian immigrants do so well in the United States, what does this say about the continuing scholarly emphasis on institutional (as opposed to cultural) impediments to native Black, that is, African American economic success?

Chua & Rubenfeld 2.0 acknowledges institutional impediments to African American success, but they say very little about institutional advantages that Nigerian Americans may have. In fairness to Chua and Rubenfeld, they are likely constrained by the dearth of scholarship on the pre- and post-migration trajectories of Nigerian Americans, who are largely recent migrants. Thus, to explore the potential relevance of institutional factors, I consider the original Black “triple package” group for which much more scholarship is available, West Indians. I contend that institutional background matters. For example, even the earliest turn-of-the-century Black West Indian migrants gained exposure to an institutional context for wealth acquisition through the extension of property and contract rights to slaves and their descendants in the West Indies. This stands in stark contrast to the institutional context that generally existed for African Americans, not only during slavery, but also in the pre-civil rights southern United States.

Thus, despite the historical sociological focus on West Indian American success, I question the notion that West Indian Americans are necessarily a useful comparative sample to African Americans simply because they are Black—particularly given the historical disparity between West Indian Americans and African Americans in accessing institutions for wealth creation. The question then becomes if the same might be true of Nigerian Americans.

Upcoming Conference: “Housing Not Handcuffs: National Forum on the Human Right to Housing”

Upcoming Conference: “Housing Not Handcuffs: National Forum on the Human Right to Housing” organized by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, June 6-7, 2017.

News Coverage: “Section 8 Vouchers Help The Poor — But Only If Housing Is Available”

News Coverage: NPR, “Section 8 Vouchers Help The Poor — But Only If Housing Is Available,” May 10, 2017.

Blog post: Lisa Pruitt on Hillbilly Elegy

For those interested in JD Vance’s book or in reactions to the book, Lisa Pruitt’s blog post about the reactions can be found here.

Not Poverty Law, but…!?!


The only real question is whether Republicans (elected officials and those who elected them) care more about this country than they do about pushing through regressive, self-interested, policies.  If this does not inspire Republicans to finally investigate and focus on Trump’s issues, it will wipe away the veneer that the Republican Party is based on certain ideas about how to make the country better (even if I disagree with many of those ideas) and reveal fully that the party is interested solely in power and nothing more.