September 28, 2007
Interesting Paper on how we view inequality
Matthew D. Adler has posted an interesting paper to SSRN that explores whether we should think of poverty through snapshots (single time examinations) or through a lifetime perspective. Well-Being, Inequality and Time: The Time Slice Problem and its Policy Implications is available through SSRN, here, and bepress, here. Below is the abstract:
Should equality be viewed from a lifetime or "sublifetime" perspective? In measuring the inequality of income, for example, should we measure the inequality of lifetime income or of annual income? In characterizing a tax as "progressive" or "regressive," should we look to whether the annual tax burden increases with annual income, or instead to whether the lifetime tax burden increases with lifetime income? Should the overriding aim of anti-poverty programs be to reduce chronic poverty: being badly off for many years, because of low human capital or other long-run factors? Or is the moral claim of the impoverished person a function of her current state - meaning that someone who is badly nourished, badly housed, or in pain at present has a strong claim on our aid regardless of whether this is a chronic or transient state? Should we think of the aged as a "suspect class," a low-well-being group? From the sublifetime perspective, the aged are indeed a kind of "suspect class," because they tend to have low current incomes and health and to be socially isolated. But the aged have lived for many years and are therefore, as a matter of lifetime well-being, relatively "rich" compared to the rest of the population.
This Article addresses the time-slice question. I use the framework of welfarism and the formal apparatus of "social welfare functions" to sharpen analysis. The first half of the Article argues for the lifetime perspective. The second half surveys the implications of that perspective for a host of legal and policy issues: the measurement of equality; the measurement of poverty; the design of redistributive taxes; the question whether non-tax instruments, such as environmental regulations or tort law, should also be used for redistribution; and how the "suspect class" framework and other distributively sensitive policy tools should be structured. Above all, the Article aims to raise the profile of a foundational question which has been insufficiently discussed - a question that anyone who cares about equality should grapple with.
September 24, 2007
UPDATE: The Washington Post published David Nasaw's "We Can't Rely on the Kindness of Billionaires" (Sep. 24, 2007) in which he expresses similar concerns I express below (albeit he does so much more eloquently), asking at one point, "What becomes of a society that relies on "gifts" from a handful of socially conscious billionaires to save schools, cure disease and alleviate poverty?" The Post also published a list of the top five philanthropists and foundations in history, available here.
Bill Clinton's newest book focuses is entitled "Giving" and is a celebration of charitable work such as that that done by the Clinton Foundation. Bill Clinton was on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show last night, you can view the interview here, and has been promoting his book across the country. My concern with this and other books by politicians (I vaguely recall one but cannot come up with it) promoting the value of charity is with the political calculation involved in advocating something few critique regardless of political inclination and in the process diffusing attention from needed government programs or policies. Such celebrations of "giving," by suggesting that charity can take the place of government, arguably undermine efforts to provide lasting, guaranteed support to the very populations charities seek to serve. They also lump in gifts such as Barbara Dodd Anderson's recent $128 million gift to George School (where I was a scholarship student) (N.Y. Times coverage here) with gifts with greater potential to reach those in need.
Two conflicting views on charity can be found in:
- Arthur C. Brooks, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (2006) (arguing for charity in place of the state).
- David Wagner, What’s Love Got to Do with It?: A Critical Look at American Charity (2001) (a more skeptical take on the role of charity).
Call for Papers: LAW, POVERTY AND ECONOMIC INEQUALITY Valparaiso University School of Law April 3-4, 2008
CONFERENCE - LAW, POVERTY AND ECONOMIC INEQUALITY Valparaiso University
School of Law April 3-4, 2008
The acceleration of economic globalization over the past few decades
engendered initial excitement about the possibilities it could generate,
but this excitement has been replaced by more cautionary sentiments, as
increasingly economic inequalities and poverty have become one of
globalization's defining features. The ravages of poverty and economic
inequality are most pronounced in less affluent countries, particularly
those in Africa, but also are present in the Americas, Asia, and Eastern
Europe. Even affluent northern countries like the United States have
not been able to entirely avoid some of the adverse consequences of
globalization, including the widespread loss of jobs, diminishing of
labor rights, depressed wages, and pervasive privatization of
governmental functions, leading to a concentration of economic power in
the private sector and greater resulting disparities of resources.
Poverty and persistent economic inequalities have differing consequences
but often overlapping impacts on a broad range of constituencies such as
children, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous communities,
immigrants, refugees, women, and the elderly.
Valparaiso University School of Law will host a conference on April 3
and 4, 2008 to investigate these issues in a local and global context.
The conference hopes to raise the fundamental question about what the
law and legal institutions can do to alleviate poverty and economic
inequality. The conference will explore contemporary constitutional
strategies, such as the incorporation of economic, social and cultural
rights in constitutions (as evidenced by the South African experience),
among other formal legal strategies, in relation to grassroots
anti-poverty campaigns, such as the poor people's economic and human
rights campaign in the United States and the homeless and landless
people's federation in Asia and elsewhere. This investigation will
also examine the limitation of legal strategies in the face of
entrenched economic and social structural impediments to equality.
Invited keynote speakers are Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa's
Constitutional Court and Bob Herbert of the New York Times.
Valparaiso is 40 miles south of Chicago, with easy access to Chicago
O'Hare and Midway airports.
The accommodation costs and meals of presenters will be covered, and
there is some funds available for travel. Please indicate in your
abstract whether your institution will pay your travel costs, or whether
you will require funding.
If you are interested in presenting a paper, please send a one-paragraph
abstract by November 1, to:
Professor Penelope (Penny) Andrews
Visiting Professor of Law
Valparaiso University School of Law
656 S. Greenwich Street
Valparaiso IN 46383
September 18, 2007
Conference Announcement: The Just and Moral Society: From Ideal to Reality
St. John's Campus, Queens Campus is hosting a conference entitled "The Just and Moral Society: From Ideal to Reality," October 13, 2007, focusing on a range of poverty related topics. The conference includes speakers from a number of disciplines including a keynote address by John J. Coughlin (Notre Dame Law) and a panel on "The State(s) of America's Work Force" with Susan Stabile (Minnesota Law) and Gina Calabrese (St. John's Law), as well as many non-law school faculty members. The program is here and a brochure is here.
September 16, 2007
Loan Repayment for Public Interest Work
Philip G. Schrag has posted "Federal Student Loan Repayment Assistance for Public Interest Lawyers and Other Employees of Governments and Nonprofit Organizations" to SSRN. Schrag is also the author of Repay As You Earn: The Flawed Government Program to Help Students Have Public Service Careers (2002) and The Federal Income-Contingent Repayment Option For Law Student Loans, 29 Hofstra L. Rev. 733 (2001).
For those concerned that graduates may have limited opportunities to work on the things they came to law school for because of the demands of student debt, Schrag's work is worth looking at given his demonstrated interest in the topic.
UPDATE: The Georgetown press release detailing Professor Schrag's involvement in the creation of a new federal loan forgiveness program is available here. A link to Schrag's paper hosted by Georgetown rather than SSRN is available here.
September 12, 2007
Rural Poverty Scholarship
Though I have a personal interest in rural poverty (see my articles on rural building codes and Indian reservation economic development), another professor, Lisa R. Pruitt, is in the midst of a publishing spree of rural poverty articles. As Pruitt notes, rural poverty is rarely considered when policies and programs focusing on poverty are designed. In addition, relative to the attention given urban areas, there are few academics who have worked on rural poverty theory or have emphasized rural poverty.
Lisa Pruitt's recent articles are:
- Toward a Feminist Theory of the Rural, 2007 Utah L. Rev. 421 (2007).
- Missing the Mark: Welfare Reform and Rural Poverty, 10 J. of Gender, Race & Justice 439 (2007).
- Rural Rhetoric, 39 Conn. L. Rev. 159 (2006).
Another person with a number of rural poverty related articles is Debra Lyn Bassett:
- Distancing Rural Poverty, 13 Geo. J. of Poverty L. & Pol'y 3 (2006).
- Ruralism, 88 Iowa L. Rev. 273 (2003).
- The Rural Venue, 57 Alabama L. Rev. (2006).
In addition, Thomas Mitchell (the Thomas Mitchell at Wisconsin) has written:
- Destabilizing the Normalization of Rural Black Land Loss: A Critical Role for Legal Empiricism, 2005 Wis. L. Rev. 557 (2005).
Finally, the following research centers and websites focus on rural poverty:
- Rural Poverty Research Center (contains conference info as well as working papers)
- Rural Poverty Portal (International Fund for Agricultural Development)
September 7, 2007
New York Times Series - Age of Riches & Border Crossings
The New York Times is in the midst of a series entitled "Age of Riches" that focuses on "the effects of the growing concentration of wealth." The series homepage is here, and there are two multimedia graphics associated with the series: one on the cost of living in Silicon Valley and one an interesting interactive graphic on the richest Americans in history arranged in reverse wealth order. The three articles focus on charitable deductions, millionaires who do not feel rich, and the perspective of the wealthy on the new gilded age.
The New York Times is also publishing a series written by Jason DeParle entitled "Border Crossings" that examines "global migration and its consequences." The series, available here is a continuation of DeParle's earlier Sunday Times Magazine article on remittances that I have posted about before and so far includes four articles (focusing on different aspects of the effect of migration in India, skilled workers, Dubai, and Cape Verde) and three slide shows and an interactive global snapshot of international migration.
September 6, 2007
International Poverty Law - Lucy Williams & Call for Papers
An isolated understanding of poverty that overlooks international aspects of poverty risks a lot (from not putting the U.S. experience in context in a poverty law class to having a myopic research agenda), something that came across from a pile of Lucy Williams' recent work that a friend gave me to share on this blog.
The Comparative Research Programme on Poverty of the International Social Science Council has a call for papers that might be of interest to those with command of Spanish. The conference, “Pobreza, integración económica y comercio internacional” with a Sep. 17th deadline for a Quito, Ecuador conference taking place on Nov. 27-29, 2007; details here.
- Law and Poverty: The Legal System and Poverty Reduction (Lucy Williams, Asbjorn Kjonstad & Peter Robson eds.; 2003) (coverage of issues from a range of countries).
- International Poverty Law: An Emerging Discourse (Lucy Williams ed., 2006).
And in addition, two other Williams publications may be of interest:
- Lucy A. Williams, Issues and Challenges in Addressing Poverty and Legal Rights: A Comparative United States/South African Analysis, 21 South African J. on Human Rights 436 (2005).
- Lucy A. Williams, Poor Women's Work Experiences: Gaps in the "Work/Family" Discussion, Ch. 9 in Labour Law, Work, and Family (Joanne Conaghan & Kerry Rittich eds., 2005).
- E.R. email@example.com
September 3, 2007
Alberto Gonzales - Harvard Professor?
Gonzales' resignation gives me a good excuse to highlight a good paper by Luz Herrera. In the paper, Luz notes (p. 85, fn. 217) that Alberto Gonzales wrote to Harvard Law in 1989 to recommend himself to teach as a member of Harvard's faculty. Her paper, Challenging a Tradition of Exclusion: The History of an Unheard Story at Harvard Law School, 5 Harv. Latino L. Rev. 51 (2002), contains a well researched history of student efforts to pressure Harvard to hire a Latino faculty member.
Environmental Justice and the Poor - N.Y. Times Article
The New York Times has a new article on environmental justice that covers environmental justice and development. The article is: Amanda Griscom Little, Not in Whose Backyard? (Sep. 2, 2007).
More information on environmental justice is available at:
- EPA's website (listing an environmental justice internship)
- Pres. Clinton's Executive Order on Environmental Justice
- Sierra Club's Environmental Justice page
- Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University (with many good links)
- (A Lexis title search "environmental justice" revealed 271 articles)