Wednesday, March 25, 2009
One in 50 Children Homeless? Here's a question from President Obama's press conference , asked by Kevin Chappell of Ebony --
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. A recent report found that, as a result of the economic downturn, 1 in 50 children are now homeless in America. With shelters at full capacity, tent cities are sprouting up across the country.
In passing your stimulus package, you said that help was on the way. But what would you say to these families, especially children, who are sleeping under bridges and in tents across the country? [E.A.]
This is one of those statistical assertions that you know is BS before you even set out to show it's BS . If you just live here and go around with your eyes open you know it's BS. Sure enough, it's BS! Chappell's question is based on this study by an anti-homelessness advocacy group with every incentive to maximize the estimate of the problem. 1) The report apparently counts all people who are "homeless" even one night over the course of a year . That's very different from saying that one-in-50 are homeless at the same time--e.g., "now." 2) More significantly, the report counts as "homeless" families who've "doubled up"--e.g., moved in with relatives --apparently on the grounds that while these children in these families do have a home, they don't have "a home of their own." That's not what most people mean by homeless, and not the image Chappell conjures (tent cities, sleeping under bridges). Will I be "homeless" if Fire Mickey Kaus succeeds and I have to move in with my brother's family? Don't answer that. ... The study also counts families living in motels and trailer parks--again, lousy living arrangements, maybe, but not what we usually mean by "homeless."
P.S.: "Doubling up" counts for fully 56% of the "1 in 50" estimate. (See page 9 ). "Hotels/motels" counts for 7%. In other words, right off the bat almost two-thirds of the study's once-a-year "homelessness" isn't actually homelessness. ...
Update: Taranto, who called out the "National Center on Family Homelessness" weeks ago , has more detail. It turns out they also count children in "substandard housing"! The numbers may also have been inflated the year chosen, which coincided with Hurrican Katrina. As Taranto notes , if you "spent a single night ... staying with cousins in Houston or Shreveport as a result of Katrina" you counted as "homeless." ...
P.P.S.: This study uses every trick in the liberal antipoverty advocacy playbook: Focus on children, not adults? Check. Gin up inflated numbers? Check. Include state-by-state breakdowns to interest local reporters? Check. Appealing pictures of tots? Check. Hyped-up language? ("A storm is moving across the country ... ") Check. Gloss over all the moral and policy dilemmas involved in giving cash to single mothers who aren't working? Check. It's a formula well-designed to get lots of mentions in the MSM. But it works less well in terms of actually getting policies enacted. You're not going to bowl over the American political system by engineering a wave of naive, guilt-tripping compassion. Did Marion Wright Edelman prevent welfare reform? I don't quite understand it. It's not as if homelessness isn't a real problem. An organization that gained a reputation for not hyping it might have real impact on legislation. But that doesn't seem to be what the world of non-profit grantsmanship rewards. ... 3:46 A.M.
Driving in Texas recently, I heard two radio DJ's bantering with at least the pretense of spontaneity about the joys of forming a local twitter-based group. One said it was great. The other said it sounded great! No way this is actually spontaneous--it must be some kind of marketing campaign, no? Presumably a paid (or bartered) marketing campaign. Which leads to the realization-- hasn't there been a whole lot of seemingly spontaneous and semi-mindless mentioning of Twitter lately?
And attention-getting celebritweeting? Hmmm. You don't think that a lot of it might be the result of a paid mentioning campaign? Tough times make people easy to
. forge a consulting relationship with. I'm not naming names, or even linking (I'd have to talk to the lawyers, and who needs that).
But do any of you know someone who's getting what would amount to Twitterola? ... 2:21 A.M.