Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage: A Lifesaver or a Killer?

January 27th, 2014 No comments

By: Jaclyn Crittenden

Blog Category: Minimum Wage & the Economy

A hot topic in politics today is forcing the middle class to think about a subject that we generally only focus on during election season-raising the minimum wage. While we may not think about it often, low-income employees think about it nearly everyday. According to Obama in his State of the Union address, 19 states and Washington DC currently have minimum wages set above $7.25 per hour, but this blog entry focuses only on the federal minimum wage and its effects on the job market.

More than 30 million full-time workers earn the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, making $15,080 a year. That’s just below the federal poverty threshold of $15,130 for a family of 2. As many low-income earners have children to support and are often single-parent households with one adult working, resources are even scarcer than what data can measure.

I spent 10 years before law school working retail for $7.25 an hour and serving tables for $2.23 per hour plus tips, so I have observed the struggle experienced by my co-workers. Luckily, I had my Mom to support me. Now, as a law student who has learned about politics, policy, and economics, I am aware that increasing the minimum wage will have a ripple effect on the economy as a whole. This blog entry does not seek to advocate for or against an increase of minimum wage. Instead, this entry is meant to help readers consider both sides of the debate on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.

Advocates for an increased minimum wage argue that the extra earnings for the lowest-paid workers would allow families to afford the basic necessities, raise many struggling households above the federal poverty line, and increase economic activity.  It’s estimated that raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour, as proposed by the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, would generate between $21 billion-$32 billion for the economy and create between 120,000- 140,000 new jobs. Indexing the minimum wage to inflation, as the proposed legislation also entails, would prevent more families from falling into poverty as costs of living increases over time.

According to opponents of a minimum wage increase, this debate is a question of more-skilled low-wage workers versus less-skilled low-wage workers. Better-educated workers with better skills benefit from the wage increase at the expense of their less-educated, less-skilled counterparts with shorter work histories. Raising the minimum wage increases the cost of labor, rather than increasing the value of labor. As with all things in the marketplace, the more something costs, the less of it is bought; this is as true of workers in the labor market as it is of anything else.

In the meantime, the future for many low paid employees and their families, whether bright or gloomy, hangs in the balance while the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 is hotly debated.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


Antony Davies, James R. Harrington, Raising the Minimum Wage is No Free Lunch, U.S. News Opinion (October 21, 2013),

Obama Minimum Wage Plan Renews Economic Debate, News 2 WCBD-TV Charleston (last updated Feb. 25, 2013 6:22 PM).

Categories: Headline Tags: , ,

Minimum Wage Furthering Economic Inequality in the United States

November 4th, 2013 No comments

By: Olivia Italiano
Blog Category: Minimum Wage & the Economy

Economic inequality in the United States has risen radically in recent decades. A substantial portion of this inequality is the result of the depletion of minimum wage standards to the point where minimum wage workers frequently fall well below the federal poverty line.[1]  Despite working full-time hours, minimum wage is not livable for the vast majority of workers, many of whom are often reduced to food stamps because they simply cannot afford the cost of living and supporting their families on their minimum wage salaries.[2]  Racial wealth disparities add another dimension to the plight of the poverty stricken, as entire communities, overwhelmingly populated by minorities, have been financially drained to the point of families losing their homes and being forced onto the streets.[3]

As many scholars have noted, it is both ironic and disheartening that the wealthiest nation in the world allows a dramatic portion of its population to live in abject poverty.[4]  In recent years, the “living wage movement” has attempted, principally through local legislation, to rectify the current plight of minimum wage workers by requiring that businesses with public contracts pay their workers adequate livable wages to support their families.[5]  This movement requires both the federal minimum wage as well as state minimum wages be increased above the poverty line.[6]  Moving forward, our nation must commit itself to providing justice for minimum-wage workers and achieving equality by raising minimum wage across the country.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

[1] Darin M. Dalmat, Bringing Economic Justice Closer to Home: The Legal Viability of Local Minimum Wage Laws Under Home Rule, 39 Colum. J. L. & Soc. Probs. 93, 138 (2005).

[2] Id.

[3] Gene R. Nichol, Foreword: Wages, Work, Privilege, and Legal Education, 5 Harv. L. & Pol’y Rev. 1, 2 (2011).

[4] Id.

[5] William Quigley, Full-Time Workers Should Not Be Poor: The Living Wage Movement, 70 Miss L.J. 889, 944 (2001).

[6] Harry Hutchinson, Toward A Critical Race Reformist Conception of Minimum Wage Regimes: Exploding the Power of Myth, Fantasy, and Hierarchy, 34 Harv. J. Legis. 93, 134 (1997).

Categories: Headline Tags: , ,

Inclusionary Zoning Programs: More Than a Hopeful Mechanism to Achieving Affordable Housing?

October 12th, 2013 No comments

By: Alicia Philip
Blog Category: Housing/Entitlement Programs 

Inclusionary zoning (“IZ”) is a mechanism increasingly utilized to provide affordable housing in an economically integrative manner.[1]  IZ promotes economic and racial integration by enabling lower- and moderate-income residents to live in middle- or upper-income communities requiring a private rather than public subsidy, contrary to most housing programs.[2]  In exchange for development rights and zoning variances, residential developers are either mandated or encouraged to make a percentage of housing units within residential developments available to lower- and moderate-income residents by allowing homes to be sold or rented at below-market prices.[3]

Since inception of the first IZ program in 1974, in Montgomery County, Maryland, this flexible apparatus has been implemented in varying forms in many states and localities within the United States.[4]  More than providing a fiscally attainable method to achieving affordable housing, IZ can be held accountable for the subtle shifts towards much needed racial, economic, and social integration.[5]  Yet even with these triumphs, IZ programs still play a relatively low role in meeting the nation’s need for affordable housing.[6]

Despite this relatively low role in meeting the national need for affordable housing, the degree of access that IZ provides low-income residents to low-poverty and suburban neighborhoods and its potential to provide low-income families with extended exposure to low-poverty settings creates added beneficial force.[7]  These facts set it apart from other affordable housing programs.[8]  IZ programs notably—unlike any other affordable housing program—enable communities to retain their character while simultaneously providing affordable housing and access to amenities not often available in low poverty areas. [9]

Although laudable, the benefits of IZ programs cannot be presented in a vacuum.  IZ zoning continues to be a very controversial issue, criticized by opponents for shifting the costs and responsibility of providing affordable housing on others in society, namely the developers, extracting the upwardly mobile poor from the remainder of central city residents, and causing undue growth and decrease in the market values of homes in locations that would not otherwise experience it.[10]  These criticisms, however, appear to be de minimis when compared to the myriad of benefits that continue to result from inclusionary zoning programs.[11]

As such, inclusionary zoning programs can be laundered as more than just a hopeful mechanism to facilitate our Nation’s goals in addressing affordable housing concerns and of being more of a powerful and progressive mechanism to ensure that our communities achieve integration economically.[12]  With effective policy design choices,[13] residual benefits of IZ programs will manifest and have an enduring impact on critically looming societal issues: affordable housing and racial, economical, and social integration.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  

[1] Heather L. Schwartz, Liisa Ecola, Kristin J. Leuschner & Aaron Kofner, Is Inclusionary Zoning Inclusionary? A Guide for Practitioners, rand Corporation, iii (Feb. 19, 2013)

[2] The Effects of Inclusionary Zoning on Local Housing Markets: Lessons from the San Francisco, Washington DC and Suburban Boston Areas,, 2 (Mar. 2008),_DC,_Boston.pdf?phpMyAdmin=d3a4afe4e37aae985c684e22d8f65929.

[3] See Schwartz et al., supra note 1, at iii.

[4] See Timothy S. Hollister, Allison M. McKeen & Danielle G. McGrath, National Survey of Statutory Authority and Practical Considerations for the Implementation of Inclusionary Zoning Ordinances,, 5-10 (June 2007)

[5] Schwartz et al., supra note 1, at 7-11 (explanation of social inclusion and economic integration benefits).

[6] Id. at 7.

[7] Id. at 27-28.

[8] Id. at xiv.

[9] See Burchell et al., supra note 3.

[10] Id.

[11] See generally Policylink, Inclusionary Zoning, (last visited Mar. 14, 2013); Burchell et al., supra note 3; Schwartz et al., supra note 1, at xii-iii, 7.

[12] See generally Policylink, supra note 14.

[13] See generally Schwartz et al., supra note 1, at 21-26.

Categories: Headline Tags: , ,

Low-Income Households Get Relief From Hurricane Sandy

June 3rd, 2013 No comments

By *Jennifer Rutter

Blog Topic: Housing/Entitlement Programs

Low-Income Households Get Relief From Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy produced devastating affects on hundreds of thousands of people, but its aftermath has had a greater impact on low-income households.  Of the Sandy-related federal aid claims made by New York and New Jersey households, 43% had an income less than $30k while 68% of renters that made FEMA claims were low-income.[1]

Fortunately, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has acted quickly and released the first round of the $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant funding from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 designed to restore housing and revitalize the economy in the regions most impacted by Hurricane Sandy.[2]

New Jersey’s Housing Voucher Program, funded by HUD, is providing displaced low-income households with vouchers to assist people in obtaining a permanent residence, which has been especially hard for renters.[3]  Homeowners in New Jersey may also be eligible for a mortgage forgiveness if they are unemployed or underemployed.[4]

Additionally, affected homeowners with Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac mortgages that are facing foreclosure have been given an additional 90 days and the FHA has agreed not to evict persons in impacted areas through April 30, 2013.[5]

Although income levels made no difference to Hurricane Sandy’s path, the government has recognized the higher necessity among the impacted low-income households and acted accordingly.


The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


The sequestration and the affect on Federal Housing Assistance Programs

May 13th, 2013 No comments

By: *Andrew Patrick

Blog Topic: Housing/Entitlement Programs

The sequestration the affect on Federal Housing Assistance Programs

Congress’ recent sequestration imposes mandatory cuts in funding to many different government agencies.  This process, which began on March 1st, was put in place as an effort to reduce the United States growing debt.  The mandatory cuts mandated by Congress will significantly impact many government entitlement programs that are targeted to assist low-income individuals.

Federal housing assistance programs are among those that will feel the effect of these budget reductions.  Some of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development programs that are affected include: Section 8 Rental Assistance, Emergency Shelter Programs, and Public Housing Shelter. The federal government reported, prior to these cuts being put in place, that 8.4 million low income households pay more than half of their income on rent.

Shelter is one of the basic needs of human life and it is estimated that over 125,000 families and individuals will lose their housing as a result of the budget cuts to housing assistance programs.  Many low-income families and individuals that depend on this assistance from the government face the risk of homelessness.  These budget cuts will certainly have an adverse affect on those families and individuals who have already been able to obtain housing through these assistance programs.


*Andrew Patrick is a staff member on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Andrew, click here to view his page.

Pennsylvania Judge Bars Voter-ID law for 2012 Election

December 3rd, 2012 No comments

By: *Christopher King

Blog Category: The Economics of Discrimination

On October 2, 2012, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson granted a preliminary injunction in Applewhite v. Commonwealth,[1] thus, putting on hold a law passed by the Pennsylvania legislature earlier this year, requiring Pennsylvania voters to produce photo identification at the polls in order to vote.  Originally, Judge Simpson had denied the plaintiffs’ application for a preliminary injunction.[2]  The plaintiffs, however, appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who voted to vacate the judge’s order and remanded the case for further review.[3] In its decision, the Court asked the judge to assess the availability of state-issued photo ID, and wrote that the law should be temporary blocked if the judge found that there were voters who would be disenfranchised because of the difficulty in obtaining a photo ID prior to the November general election.[4]


In his October 2nd ruling, Judge Simpson accepted the petitioners’ argument and said that it was logistically impossible to make IDs available to everyone who needed one before the November general election.[5]  Judge Simpson ruled that, while election officials can still request to see a voter’s ID on Election Day, voters are no longer required to show ID in order to cast a regular ballot.[6]  The law as adopted had only allowed for a voter without the required ID to cast a provisional ballot, and for that ballot to be counted only if the voter returned with the proper photo documentation within six days of the election.[7]


The idea of producing identification in order to vote is something that strikes most people as a reasonable requirement.  After all, we need a photo ID to get on an airplane, to enter a number of governmental buildings, or even to buy Sudafed at the drug store.  Supporters of voter-ID laws maintain that the intent of these measures is to ensure that each registered voter is who he says he is and to prevent fraud by persons trying to cast a ballot in someone else’s name.[8]  Again, it seems reasonable enough, so why has there been so much vocal opposition to voter-ID laws?


For starters, a look at the history of voter-ID laws shows that, before 2006, no state required its voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to vote.[9]  Prior to the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American President, only two states had implemented photo identification requirements for voters.[10]  In 2011 alone, thirty-four states introduced legislation that would require its citizens to show photo identification in order to vote.[11]  Aside from Rhode Island, all voter-ID legislation has been introduced by Republican-controlled legislatures.[12]

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, 11% of American citizens, and an even greater percentage of low-income and minority citizens, do not possess a government-issued photo ID.[13]  Based on the Brennan Center’s 2006 survey, Citizens Without Proof, 25% of voting-age African Americans have no current government-issued photo ID, compared to just 8% of voting-age white citizens.[14]  The survey also states that 16% of voting-age Hispanic citizens have no current government-issued photo ID.[15]  Citizens with comparatively low incomes are also less likely to possess photo identification.[16]  The survey indicates that at least 15% of voting-age Americans earning less than $35,000 per year do not have a valid government-issued photo ID.[17]


A recent Pennsylvania study comparing people listed in the state’s ID database with its voter rolls found that more than one in seven Pennsylvania voters did not appear to have valid state-issued IDs.[18]  In the city of Philadelphia, nearly one out of every three voters were found to be without the proper photo identification.[19]  While there has been some discrepancy concerning the total number of voters who lack a suitable photo ID, Azavea, a geospatial software firm, used the information relevant to Philadelphia to show a disturbing tendency about where those who do not have an ID are most likely to live.[20]  The firm found that voters who live in the city’s most heavily African American-populated areas are 85% more likely to lack a valid ID than a voter who lives in a predominantly white area.  In addition, voters who live in heavily Hispanic areas were 108% more likely to lack the right ID than those in white neighborhoods.[21]

Finally, opponents of these laws argue that photo ID requirements are similar to a poll tax because, even though the state-issued photo IDs are offered for free, citizens must produce documents that cost money, like passports and birth certificates, in order to obtain the IDs.[22]


The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

*Christopher King is currently a staff member on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race on the Harrisburg campus. To learn more about Christopher King, click the link to visit his page: Christopher King

[1] Applewhite v. Commonwealth, No. 330 M.D. (Pa. Commw. Ct. Oct. 2, 2012), NR/rdonlyres/CFBF4323-B964-4846-8179-88D689375C10/0/CMWSuppDetAppPrelInjOrder _100212.pdf.

[2] Suevon Lee, Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws, ProPublica (Oct. 10, 2012, 1:54 PM),

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Sophia Pearson, Pennsylvania Judge Bars Voter-ID Law for 2012 Election, Bloomberg (Oct. 3, 2012, 12:01 AM),

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Lee, supra note 2.

[9] Wendy R. Weiser & Lawrence Norden, Brennan Ctr for Justice, Voting Law Changes in 2012 4 (2011), available at

[10] Id. at 2.

[11] Id.

[12] Lee, supra note 2.

[13] Weiser & Norden, supra note 9.

[14] Brennan Ctr for Justice, Citizens Without Proof: A Survery of Americans’ Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenship and Photo Identification 3 (2006), available at

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Dan Froomkin, Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Hits Philadelphia Blacks, Latinos Harder, HuffingtonPost (Aug. 7, 2012),

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Lee, supra note 2.