Elizabeth Warren’s work in bankruptcy and commercial law has reached beyond the traditional confines of this business-oriented subject, empirically redefining the field. The Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Warren focuses on the economic collapse of middle-class families. As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy in America (Oxford University Press, 1989), which she cowrote, used a detailed analysis of bankruptcy court records to debunk myths concerning consumer behavior predictors and to paint a thoughtful picture of the American bankruptcy system. Her next book, The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt (Yale University Press, 2000), followed families who suffered financial collapse after a significant economic setback, such as a job loss or serious illness.
At Radcliffe, Warren will work on her next book, “On Their Own: Women, Children, Divorce, and Bankruptcy,” based on an analysis of newly collected data. The book will begin with a central conundrum: At a time when all economic indicators for women point upward, why would the proportion of middle-class women in complete financial collapse rise sharply? Warren is exploring four related lines of inquiry: the economic status of households headed by women, the financial implication of current health care policies on middle-class families, the contradictory federal policies on housing evinced by tax and bankruptcy laws, and the differing economic vulnerability of middle-class families by race.
Holding a JD from Rutgers University, Warren taught at several universities before coming to Harvard as a tenured professor in 1995. The winner of several teaching awards, she is the advisor to the National Bankruptcy Review Commission and vice president of the American Law Institute. The National Law Journal named her one of the “Fifty Most Influential Women Lawyers in America.”