furthermore on panhandling

So I was in one of my favorite places to work yesterday, the Matheson Reading Room at Emory’s main library (which will still allow the public in with valid ID, and is promising a ground-floor cafÈ this fall), and found a paper that reminded me of our earlier discussion of the proposed anti-panhandling ordinance (begun here, continued here and here).

The paper was titled “The Economics of Anti-Begging Regulations,” by one Dr. Patricia Smith at the University of Michigan, Dearborn. The purpose of the paper was not to say which were the proper ways to handle begging, so don’t read this and get all mad at Dr. Smith, who probably never intended to get quoted willy-nilly on blogs. Rather, she set out to analyze the characterists of cities that passed anti-begging regulations. As best I could tell, Atlanta wasn’t included in her sample study.

Her conclusions, quoted as verbatim as I could type:

The logistic regression results indicate that cities with higher welfare benefit levels are less likely to regulate begging. This suggests that public assistance benefits provide an effective alternative to begging and/or that communities that offer more generous welfare benefits are more tolerant of beggars. Cities with a more educated citizenry appear more likely to regulate begging. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that more educated people believe the most effective way to deal with the poor is to direct them to private and public helping agencies. It is also consistent with the hypothesis that the well educated are less tolerant of beggars.

The results also indicate that the larger share of disabled citizens in a city, the higher the likelihood that the city will regulate begging. This supports the hypothesis that the greater incidence of disability, or the lesser availability of rehabilitation for the disabled, the greater the supply of beggars and the demand for anti-begging regulations. It contradicts the idea that people are generally more tolerant of disabled beggars. Cities with higher crime and denser populations are more likely to adopt anti-begging regulations due to the increased visibility and greater perceived danger associated with beggars.

The only bit I’d argue with is the part about “lesser availability of rehabilitation for the disabled,” as it would make more sense to me if a city with higher availability of rehab facilities had more disabled residents — supply meeting demand, in a sense. But the description of a high-education, high-crime city seemed to me to fit Atlanta fairly well.

4 Comments so far

  1. Joe (unregistered) on August 10th, 2005 @ 10:06 am

    I’m not sure I understand your argument here. The author’s hypothesis is that there will be more beggars in a city that either has more people who are disabled, or has fewer rehab services available for the disabled. So, the way I’m reading it, each variable is likely to have a positive correlation with beggar supply, which then leads to more regulation.

    What you’re arguing appears to be more of a causal model — higher availability of rehab facilities causes a city to have more disabled residents — which seems to be a very different argument, almost to the point of changing the subject.

  2. Jessica (unregistered) on August 10th, 2005 @ 10:21 am

    I wasn’t trying to change the subject. More like quibbling.

    I think, after thinking about it, that the question turns on the definition of “disabled.” When I read it I was thinking that a disabled person is disabled no matter what kind of treatment he or she is receiving — i.e. if you’re in a wheelchair and you’re getting top-notch care at Shepherd Spinal Center, odds are you’re still in a wheelchair. If, however, “disabled” means “someone disabled who would be okay but for treatment,” then the relationship between lack of treatment and number of disabled people becoems a lot more obvious. Dr. Smith probably gave her definition of “disabled” earlier in the article, and I was skimming too quickly to see it.

    I still think that a city with greater facilities to treat the permanently physically disabled will attract greater numbers of the permanently physically disabled. But that won’t necessarily lead to an increase in the number of permanently physically disabled beggars. That is, as you say, somewhat beside the point.

  3. Lady Crumpet (unregistered) on August 10th, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

    If I remember correctly, Emory’s library is a federal depository, meaning they get materials published by the government. So by law, they have to let the public in so they can access those materials.

    And that’s my nerdy contribution.

  4. Joe (unregistered) on August 10th, 2005 @ 2:31 pm

    I should, of course, mention that I don’t think you were trying to change the subject. My feeling was that it was more an inadvertent thing.


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