Michelle Wilde Anderson writes and teaches in the areas of poverty and inequality, local government law, housing, and environmental justice. Her new book, The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America (published by Simon & Schuster in June 2022) focuses on the dismantling and rebuilding of local government in high-poverty communities. Rooted in narrative portraits of urban and rural poverty, the book describes the fallout from decades of cuts to local government amidst rising segregation by income and race. It profiles networks of officials and residents in four communities (Stockton, California; Josephine County, Oregon; Lawrence, Massachusetts; and Detroit, Michigan) who are progressing on some of the hardest challenges of American poverty today: the collapse of basic services; the traumatic effects of gun violence; unlivable wages for the working class; and on-going waves of housing foreclosure.
The American Law Institute (ALI) awarded Anderson their Early Career Scholars Medal in 2019. Her academic writing combines legal analysis and humanistic reporting to understand and improve city and county governance of low-income urban and rural places. She has done place-based work focused on the water and infrastructure needs of high-poverty rural communities in the South and Southwest; rural land use challenges in California’s San Joaquin Valley; school reform in Memphis, Tennessee; public bankruptcy and insolvency in Detroit, Stockton, and Puerto Rico; local fiscal crisis and state interventions in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Rhode Island; and poverty in Oregon’s rural timber counties. Her national research has focused on the legal tools (including municipal dissolution, bankruptcy, and receiverships) designed to help city and county governments that are facing high levels of poverty as well as a budget crisis. Across her work, she has worked to understand how the history of racial segregation and ongoing implicit bias against Black, Latinx, and mixed-race neighborhoods/cities affect public investment, service delivery, and housing quality.
Anderson’s writing has appeared in the Stanford Law Journal, Yale Law Journal, California Law Review, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and other publications. She has taught as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School. Prior to joining Stanford in 2014, she was an assistant professor of law at the University of California Berkeley Law School. She also worked as a research fellow at the European Commission’s Urban Policy Unit in Brussels and an environmental law fellow at Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger. She clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Anderson is the Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Housing Law Project and a board member at the East Bay Community Law Center in Oakland. She holds a joint appointment with Stanford’s new Doerr School of Sustainability. She lives with her family in San Francisco.
Doerr School of Sustainability
Woods Institute for the Environment
Center on Poverty & Inequality
Center for Comparative Studies of Race & Ethnicity
Stanford Impact Labs
Program on Urban Studies