Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

Reader 1

Professor Paul Hurley

Reader 2

Professor George Thomas

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Rights Information

© 2023 Nicole Jonassen


The U.S. Constitution does not enshrine socioeconomic rights. Why does this matter? Many argue that socioeconomic rights have value in and of themselves because they secure certain minimum conditions of human dignity, but socioeconomic rights also have instrumental value because abject material deprivation often makes traditional political and civil rights meaningless. In this thesis, I explore the relationship between U.S. constitutional law and socioeconomic rights through an analysis of the Warren Court’s decisions regarding socioeconomic class. In Chapter 1, I present existing literature on socioeconomic rights, socioeconomic rights in the American context, and what many scholars see as the Warren Court’s exceptional role in advancing the recognition of constitutional socioeconomic rights. In Chapter 2, I closely examine five Warren Court cases that implicated socioeconomic class and, possibly, socioeconomic rights, and I identify three distinct rights-based arguments related to socioeconomic class advanced by the Court. In Chapter 3, I argue that the Warren Court did not, in fact, come very close to the recognition of constitutional socioeconomic rights but, rather, pursued another important goal, guaranteeing the worth of political and civil rights for people of low socioeconomic class. I also invoke Dworkin’s concept of law as integrity, arguing that an accurate understanding of the Warren Court’s relationship to socioeconomic class shows that the Warren Court advanced integrity in the law. Ultimately, this thesis seeks to correct what I argue are misunderstandings of the Warren Court’s legacy as it relates to rights.