The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans

The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans

Thanks to the "justice gap" — the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs — low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help for 86 percent of their civil legal problems in the last year, a report from the Legal Services Corporation finds. Based on a survey conducted with NORC at the University of Chicago of two thousand households at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, the report, The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans (68 pages, PDF), found that over the past year, 71 percent of low-income households — including 97 percent of survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault, 80 percent of people with disabilities and parents of children under the age of 18, 75 percent of rural residents, 71 percent of veterans, and 56 percent of seniors — experienced at least one civil legal problem. Funded by the Kresge Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the report also found that survey respondents sought professional legal help for only 20 percent of their issues, for reasons such as not knowing where to turn to for help or whether their issue was of a legal nature. According to the report, a lack of resources accounted for between 85 percent and 97 percent of civil legal problems that LSC-funded organizations do not fully address.