Monthly Archives: June 2010

Testation, Empiricism and Gender Equality

Daphna Hacker, The Gendered Dimensions of Inheritance: Empirical Food for Legal Thought, 7 J. of Empirical Studies (forthcoming 2010), available at SSRN.

There is a distinct lack of empirical research in the area of inheritance law.  Domestically, inheritance law is the province of fifty different states.  Thus, conducting an empirical study of testamentary patterns is a painstaking process that requires fieldwork in multiple probate courts, often consisting of a tedious review of individual probate court case files or records.  And among the studies that have been done over the years, few have focused on the role of gender in our field.  That gap is the focus on Daphna Hacker’s new article, The Gendered Dimensions of Inheritance: Empirical Food for Legal Thought, in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, a peer-edited, peer-refereed, interdisciplinary journal.  Hacker is an Assistant Professor at the Buchman Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University where she is also a faculty member in the NCJW Women and Gender Studies Program.

In her article, Hacker identifies four historical trends which have created the conditions under which women may exercise broader freedom to bequeath property at death.  These include laws which allowed women to own property in their own right, the abolition of rules that prevented women from inheriting property, the enactment of laws allowing women to be full participants in the labor force and the trend toward recognition of marital property rights in both spouses.  After identifying these trends, Hacker poses the following questions which empirical research could help us answer if it were more widely conducted: Do women take full advantage of this power to bequeath property?  Do they use this power to bequeath wealth as they wish?  Are there gendered dimensions to intestate succession?  And are there differences between the structure and content of men and women’s wills? Continue reading "Testation, Empiricism and Gender Equality"

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Health Care Costs and Fiscal Infirmity

Atul Gawande, The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas Town Can Teach Us About Health Care, The New Yorker (June 1, 2009).

Anyone who wants to understand fiscal policy in the United States for the next fifty years will need to understand health care costs.  There are many important issues in tax policy – the income/consumption debate, whether and how to tax wealth (especially at death), how to deal with transfer-pricing problems, when to tax capital gains, how to handle tax protesters, and so on – but the single issue that is going to drive tax policy is health care inflation.

Scary proclamations that the U.S. faces a “long-term fiscal crisis” are actually statements that health care costs could ruin the economy.  If health care costs stop increasing – either by government action or because of some “natural” maturation process in the medical-industrial complex – then there is no long-term fiscal crisis.  The so-called Social Security crisis is an over-hyped non-event, as I have argued elsewhere, and as even the most serious budget hawks will admit.  Nothing else in the budget (certainly not “waste, fraud, and abuse”) even comes close to justifying alarm about the long-term need to raise taxes.  It is all about health care. Continue reading "Health Care Costs and Fiscal Infirmity"