America’s homeless population has risen this year for the first time since the Great Recession, propelled by the housing crisis afflicting the west coast, according to a new federal study.
The study has found that 553,742 people were homeless on a single night this year, a 0.7% increase over last year.
No, really, no.
The bottom 10% of the US does about as well as the bottom 10% of certain generous European welfare states. The bottom 5% does rather worse (20 to 30% perhaps). Yes ,this is a reflection of that US welfare state, for that’s going to be a major determinant of the living standards of those at the bottom. And as it happens single able bodied people get very little help indeed. Well, you know, their gaff, their rules. They do very much better in pulling up children above their own rather different idea of a poverty line. Shrug.
The government mandates that cities and regions perform a homeless street count every two years, when volunteers fan out everywhere from frozen parks in Anchorage to palm-lined streets in Beverly Hills and enumerate people by hand. Those numbers are combined with the total staying in shelters and temporary housing.
What this is is a measure of those who would be without shelter if it were not for what that welfare state does to reduce the number of people without shelter. Which is Worstall’s Fallacy of course. In deciding what we should be doing we must look at the effects of what we’re already doing – so that we can decide if we should be doing more, doing something different. What we should not be doing is measuring the original size of the problem then deciding that more must be done – without evaluating the effects of what we already do.
As it happens I think the US could and should be doing rather more. Like, abolish very large parts of the zoning laws so that it’s possible to build cheap housing. But that’s still different from the facts about these numbers being presented.