Discovering that the Poor Pay More: Race Riots, Poverty, and the Rise of Consumer Law

15 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2018

See all articles by Norman I. Silber

Norman I. Silber

Hofstra University School of Law; Yale University - Law School

Date Written: January 26, 2018


David Caplovitz is remembered primarily for his book The Poor Pay More and his writing about poor consumers. This article addresses why this work propelled the reconstruction of consumer financial protection law, by placing it within the context of widespread urban rioting and the civil rights movements of the 1960s. It argues that Capolvoitz presented the American political center with a clinical, denatured sociological explanation for urban rioting, which involved a more palatable and less threatening suggested response to unrest than explanations premised on intrinsic white racism or class oppression. According to Caplovitz, the riots more than anything else reflected a political and social failure to appreciate the importance of consumer finance. He recommended addressing racism and deeper social grievances through major revisions to commercial and consumer law. Sidestepping other “root causes,” Caplovitz helped courts, law-makers, and many middle-class Americans revalue consumer law and its connection to domestic peace, poverty and economic justice.

Keywords: consumer law, David Caplovitz, urban riots, consumer protection, Kerner Commission, Walker-Thomas Furniture, 1960s, consumer clinics

JEL Classification: N3, K19, Z13, Z10, K20

Suggested Citation

Silber, Norman I., Discovering that the Poor Pay More: Race Riots, Poverty, and the Rise of Consumer Law (January 26, 2018). 44 Ford.Urb.L.J. 1319 (2017) , Hofstra Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2018-02, Available at SSRN: or

Norman I. Silber (Contact Author)

Hofstra University School of Law ( email )

121 Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549
United States
516 463 5866 (Phone)
516 463 4962 (Fax)

Yale University - Law School

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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