## Tuesday, October 6, 2015

### Panhandler income

 Image from HERE
I was recently informed that panhandlers in Lansing, Michigan average \$300 a day.  This number was extracted, according to my informer, from the local paper.  I called BS.  My experience is that the local paper is a bush-league feeder to the conglomerate that owns them.

The dead-tree news business is imploding.  Most of the investigative journalists are recent graduates of University programs churning out graduates matched to the needs of the industry, circa 1980.  That is, the University is shooting behind the bird.

"Research" now means typing a few keywords into Google and paraphrasing the most sensational blurbs that show up on the top two pages.

#### What does your experience "inform" you?

My experience is that only one in every five or ten stop-light cycles yields a donation.  Figuring a stop-light cycle of two minutes, then the panhandler scores a donation every ten-to-twenty minutes.  We will use the average of that range and assume four donations an hour.

Sometimes that donation is a \$5 bill, but more often it is a \$1.  Assuming a ratio of 1:3, then the panhandler is making \$8/hour.  Assuming a ratio of 1:5, the panhandler is making \$6.67/hour.

Occasionally, the donor presses a box of mac-and-cheese or an apple on the panhandler.  This essay makes no attempt to place a value on food donations.

During the long days of summer, the panhandler can work both morning and evening commutes.  The peak traffic hours are two hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon-evening.  That produces a high-end estimate of \$48/day and a low end estimate of \$40/day.

In the shortest days of winter the morning commute is in the dark and so is the last hour of the evening commute.  That halves the productive hours to three hours and shrinks the estimated take to \$24/day-to-\$20/day.

Commuters are less likely to lower their windows when it is raining so that knocks out some collection days.

So, the ERJ estimate based on simple observation is \$20/day-to-\$48/day.

What does cross-section of the internet yield?

Note that I am not going for sensational, I am going for a cross-section.

Willamette Weekly:
According more than a dozen interviews, however, a typical day's take ranges from \$10 to \$35
The Portland Mercury
50 respondents reported an average hourly income of \$4.96, an average daily income of \$21.69
Hwang and Bose (Toronto)
...panhandlers in their city made (not adjusted for inflation or currency differences) about \$30 a day from panhandling
The Broke and Beautiful Life:
According to Michael S. Scott, the director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, “Estimates vary from a couple of dollars a day on the low end, to \$20 to \$50 a day in the mid-range, to about \$300 a day on the high end.”  - See more at: http://thebrokeandbeautifullife.com/maybe-i-should-panhandle/#sthash.RW7la0Dl.dpuf
According to Michael S. Scott, the director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, “Estimates vary from a couple of dollars a day on the low end, to \$20 to \$50 a day in the mid-range, to about \$300 a day on the high end. - See more at: http://thebrokeandbeautifullife.com/maybe-i-should-panhandle/#sthash.RW7la0Dl.dpuf
According to Michael S. Scott, director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, "Estimates vary from a couple of dollars a day on the low end, to \$20-to-\$50 a day in the mid-range, to about \$300 a day on the high end."

Bottom line:  Most panhandlers are not doing it because of the pay rate.  In some cases they are truly desperate.  In other cases they lack the "people skills" to hold down a job where human interactions last longer than twenty seconds.