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Economic Rights in the Land of Plenty: Monitoring State Fulfillment of Economic and Social Rights Obligations in the United States


  • Susan Randolph

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Michelle Prairie

    (University of Nottingham)

  • John Stewart

    (University of Hartford)


This paper adapts the economic and social rights index (ESRF) developed by Fukuda-Parr et. al. (2009) to assess the extent to which each of the 50 U.S. states fulfills the economic and social rights obligations set forth in the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. It then extends the index to incorporate discrimination, and examines differences in economic and social rights fulfillment by race and sex within each of the states. The overall ESRF score varies between states from below 70% to almost 85% with wider variation on some of the six component substantive right (food, education, health, decent work, decent housing, and social security) indices that comprise the overall ESRF Index. More diverse states tend to achieve lower scores overall as well as on specific rights. Although there were only minor differences by sex in the overall ESRF scores, there remain substantial differences with regard to several of the specific component right indices. In particular, women fare better on the right to education, but men fare better on the right to decent work. Race and ethnic discrimination is more pronounced. Upon taking it into account, the overall ESRF score falls by between 3 and 18 percentage points, depending on the state. In most states, blacks endure the greatest marginalization, however, in a number of states with large Hispanic populations, Hispanics suffer the greatest marginalization. Although beyond the scope of the current analysis, the results hold promise in identifying state policies that best promote economic and social rights. In this regard, our analysis reveals that no state holds a monopoly on the policies that best promote all economic and social rights, rather some states do better in promoting certain rights and others excel at promoting others.

Suggested Citation

  • Susan Randolph & Michelle Prairie & John Stewart, 2009. "Economic Rights in the Land of Plenty: Monitoring State Fulfillment of Economic and Social Rights Obligations in the United States," Economic Rights Working Papers 12, University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:ecriwp:12

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mwangi S. Kimenyi, 2005. "Economic Rights, Human Development Effort and Institutions," Working papers 2005-40, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
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    More about this item


    Human Rights; Economic and Social Rights; International Law; Human Development; Welfare and Poverty; Discrimination; Inequality; Country Study: United States;

    JEL classification:

    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • K33 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - International Law
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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