The Fleecing of America’s Poor: Dan Hatcher’s The Poverty Industry

Document Type

Book Review

Journal Title

Concurring Opinions

Publication Date



Having written about and represented many poor fathers in child support cases, I am familiar with the way federal and state child support policy undermines families. I understand how laws requiring recipients of public benefits to identify the fathers of their children and “cooperate” in child support enforcement hurt fragile family relationships. And I am aware that aspects of public functions like child support enforcement have been privatized in many states; I know this development has often resulted in prioritizing “revenue-maximization” over sound family policy.

But I had no idea about the extent of the harm caused by the broad web of contracts between the state and private industry to maximize profits from public benefits owed to vulnerable citizens until I read Dan Hatcher’s book, The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America’s Most Vulnerable Citizen’s (NYU Press 2016). I should start this review with two disclosures. Dan is a friend and has been my colleague for over ten years at the University of Baltimore law school. I have also followed this book from its inception to its publication. But my enthusiastic review here will echo much of the praise he has received in the many positive reviews of The Poverty Industry in both the academic and popular press.