Graphics for our plight

I have often noted in this blog that inequality is increasing.  That has implications for efficiency and growth, if the lower end of the income distribution is being pushed down so far in real terms that their ability to produce healthy, well-educated, and productive children suffers.

Another cost is the still-rising tide of homelessness.  This is a problem that we literally prefer to sweep under the rug, hiding the homeless from sight or moving them outside of city centers wherever possible.  We tend to think of the homeless as a legion of individual, personal failures, instead of the result of a society in which everything and everyone is valued according to their economic return, and everything, including health and medical attention and an affordable places to live are viewed as private costs to be paid by those who need them.   When these principles clash, as they often do, with people unable to work and earn enough to pay for basic housing come up against a system where housing has to be paid for at market rates, we get large numbers of homeless.

Of course, we do have public housing programs and affordable housing components of regional and urban planning.  Still the recession has boosted the number of those whose needs are not met by these plans.

Worse yet, although the official figures show we have more than enough emergency  shelters and transitional housing to take care of the homeless, many of the homeless do not connect to that help; they are in the wrong place or feel hostility or are just too afraid or disconnected from society to take advantage of the help that is available.  That is where social workers come in; and are badly needed.

Words and numbers don’t always convey these problems most effectively, so I am happy to share a graphic sent to me by Savannah Martin:

Please look at this, and if you find it moves you, do let Savannah know: <>

About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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