The Importance of Doing Nothing: Everyday Problems and Responses of Inaction

TRANSFORMING LIVES: LAW AND SOCIAL PROCESS, Pascoe Pleasence, Alexy Buck, Nigel Balmer, eds., Stationery Office Books, 2007

23 Pages Posted: 4 May 2010

See all articles by Rebecca L. Sandefur

Rebecca L. Sandefur

Arizona State University; American Bar Foundation

Date Written: April 1, 2007

Abstract

In the United States, among the most common responses to justiciable problems – non-trivial problems that raise civil legal issues – is to do nothing. The probability of taking no action varies inversely with income, with poor households least likely to take any action to attempt to resolve problems. In focus groups comprised of low- and low-moderate income residents of a Midwestern American city, respondents were asked to discuss experiences of justiciable problems involving money or housing, including problems about which they did nothing. Five rationales for inaction emerged: shame, a sense of insufficient power, fear, gratitude, and frustrated resignation. Three themes – fear, gratitude and frustrated resignation – reflected lessons from people's past experiences with justiciable problems. These themes suggest new, richer explanations for socio-economic differences in how such problems are handled.

Keywords: civil justice, access to justice, social class, income, legal services

Suggested Citation

Sandefur, Rebecca L., The Importance of Doing Nothing: Everyday Problems and Responses of Inaction (April 1, 2007). TRANSFORMING LIVES: LAW AND SOCIAL PROCESS, Pascoe Pleasence, Alexy Buck, Nigel Balmer, eds., Stationery Office Books, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1599755

Rebecca L. Sandefur (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Tempe, AZ 85287
United States

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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