Which city actually deserves the inglorious distinction of “Homeless Capital of America”? Who is the winner of this human tragedy?… Sadly, the real losers here are the people struggling on our nation’s streets.
Tag Archives: data
For the most visible homeless individuals, at least, the numbers seem to be trending down. More or less.
In the darkness of early morning, the counting can be monotonous, an exercise that almost puts you to sleep. I have written before about the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandated homeless counts that occur throughout this country during the month of January. Municipalities have to count their homeless population at least every other year, or they will lose their HUD funding. Some cities count every year.
Counting how many people are languishing on our streets, however, is good. How can we address a sad human tragedy without knowing the extent of the problem? How can we know if we are successfully reducing the number of people on our streets without regularly assessing our work through counts?
For years, academics and government statisticians have been developing and testing alternative poverty measures. Indeed, the individual responsible for developing our current poverty measure has long called for a more modern approach.
Recently, the US Census Bureau published a recalculated poverty rate for 2010, using an alternative method called the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM considers more than just food costs in its calculation, including the cost of clothing, shelter, and utilities as well as adjusting for regional differences in the cost of living. Additionally, while the current poverty measure only considers gross, untaxed income, the SPM accounts for taxes paid, and also credits individuals and families with income supplements like cash-aid welfare and food stamps.
I sometimes wonder if announcements from the government on embarrassing data related to poverty are intentionally confusing in order to shield the reality of hurt in this country.
Recently, the United States Census Bureau declared a new model to assess poverty. Two months ago, the Bureau announced that the number of poor Americans was 46.2 million. Now, they say the number is 49 million.
So how many poor people are there in the U.S.? We have a new answer from the Census Bureau, which has just released a report based on its supplemental poverty measure.
According to the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), 49.1 million people in America were poor in 2010 — 16% of the population. That’s about 2.9 million — 0.9% — more than the Bureau reported based on the official poverty measure.
A new report by the Brookings Institute examines the profile of those living in extremely poor areas. The authors of the report define extreme poverty areas as neighborhoods with poverty rates greater than or equal to 40%.
Using 2000 US Census data and the 2005-2009 American Community Survey, the report estimates that the total number of people living in extremely poor neighborhoods rose by 33% in the last decade. While the number of people living in poor areas has spiked after falling throughout the 1990s, the profile of those living in impoverished neighborhoods seems to be shifting.
The Census Bureau opened its press briefing on the just-released 2010 income, poverty and health insurance data with a brief statement from the director. The director said the yearly figures show “how day-to-day people are faring under changing economic conditions.”
By almost every measure, the answer is not well at all. The poverty rate rose from 14.3% to 15.1%. The new rate is the highest since 1993, and the child poverty rate increased to 22% — up from 18% in 2007.
A couple of weeks ago, David Henderson wrote a piece criticizing the Los Angeles City Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) for failing to report margins of error around its estimate of the size of the Los Angeles Homeless population.
Most likely, as David argued, LAHSA failed to report the statistical error bounds around its estimate because doing so would have revealed that LAHSA could not statistically determine whether homelessness had increased or decreased since its last estimate, collected in 2009.
The problem of trying to quantify social impact has received a lot of attention in the social sector lately. Those who argue in favor of quantification believe that proper metrics will allow us to better identifying programs that are effective, thus guiding donor dollars toward higher impact services.
Opponents of quantification argue that the work of the social sector is unique and that social value is not necessarily measurable.