How the Poor Still Pay More: A Reexamination of Urban Poverty in the Twenty-First Century

The Poor Pay More

Friday, April 7, 2017 

11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Fordham Law School
150 West 62nd Street
Moot Courtroom (1st floor)

 Inspired by David Caplovitz’s The Poor Pay More, this year’s Symposium explores how costs of living prevent upward mobility for low-income city dwellers. Caplovitz examined the systemic trends keeping underprivileged New Yorkers in poverty. The fiftieth anniversary of his work is an opportunity to reassess his provocative predictions. We will examine how the urban poor still struggle to afford the essentials—food, healthcare, housing—and how consumer financing and the criminal justice system intensify their struggle.






11:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.

Matthew Diller, Dean and Paul Fuller Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law



11:15 a.m.  – 11:45 a.m.

Norman I. Silber, Professor of Law, Hofstra University School of Law, and Director of Consumers Union


Affording the Necessities: The Struggle to Pay for Food, Housing, and Healthcare

11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.   

David Caplovitz’s 1967 book, The Poor Pay More, examined systemic trends preventing low-income New Yorkers from moving ahead.  By analyzing poor families’ consumerist buying and shopping habits, Caplovitz argued that they remained poor because they fell prey to unregulated, exploitative marketing, and paid more than fair market value for goods and services in virtually every sector.  In other words, they accepted “terms of exchange . . . far worse than those they could obtain if they knew where and how to shop.”  This panel will reexamine Caplovitz’s conclusions by discussing how the high costs of essential resources—such as healthy food, housing, and healthcare—continue to prevent upward mobility in cities.  As food deserts, rent, and retaliatory eviction practices rise, and as the Trump Administration threatens to roll back or eliminate crucial health insurance benefits, the struggle to afford or access these necessities is still a profound reality for many urban residents today.

Moderator:  Gilberto Vargas, Associate Director and Urban Law Fellow, Fordham Urban Law Center

Garrett Broad, Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University

Brietta R. Clark, Professor of Law, Loyola Law School

David A. Dana, Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law



1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.


Borrowing to Stay Afloat: The High Cost of Consumer Credit

2:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.   

Without the cashflow necessary to afford high costs of living, the urban poor often borrow to afford essential expenses.  In doing so, many fall prey to draconian lending policies and second-tier banks, whose harsh penalties for late payment only increase their debt and transfer wealth out of their communities.  Today’s proliferation of complex financial products compounds this problem in ways that favor sophisticated consumers and maintain barriers for those too unsophisticated to evaluate credit options or afford expert advice.

Moderator: Susan Block-Lieb, Professor of Law and Cooper Family Chair in Urban Legal Studies, Fordham University School of Law

Mehrsa Baradaran, J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law, University of Georgia School of Law

Kathleen C. Engel, Research Professor of Law, Suffolk University Law School

Dalié Jiménez, Associate Professor of Law and Jeremy Bentham Scholar, University of Connecticut School of Law

Lois R. Lupica, Maine Law Foundation Professor of Law, University of Maine School of Law



3:15 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.


Staying Out of Court: How Criminal Justice Penalties and Fees Intensify Urban Poverty

3:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.  

On top of the costs of necessities and consumer credit burdens, criminal charges impose further financial obstacles, which intensify the struggle to escape poverty.  Indigent defendants and their families strain to obtain adequate legal representation, pay steep bail amounts, and afford debts arising from incarceration, such as child support obligations and cumulative interest.  Even after release from jail or prison, the civil consequences of criminal convictions act as barriers to key benefits meant to help low-income populations move ahead.  Many municipalities use criminal justice fees to balance their own budgets while denying low-income populations essential services.         

Moderator: Clare Huntington, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law

Ann Cammett, Professor of Law, City University of New York School of Law

Sarah Lustbader, Senior Program Associate, Sentencing and Corrections, Vera Institute of Justice

David Patton, Executive Director and Attorney-in-Chief, Federal Defenders of New York



4:45 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

For more information on the Fordham Urban Law Journal or the Symposium and Book, please contact the Symposium & Articles Editor, Kate Ross, at