Friday, July 12, 2019

The Link Between Homelessness and Labor Force Participation

Homelessness as a systemic problem

Employment does not guarantee access to affordable housing, and unemployment is not always voluntary. People often involuntary lose employment due to recessions or organizational downsizing and fall behind on rent or mortgage payments. Homelessness, especially family homelessness, peaks during recessions.

Single male low wage workers are the most likely to become chronically homeless

One-third of low wage workers who become chronically homeless become homeless before they lose their jobs and one-third of low wage workers who become chronically homeless are able to hold down jobs even with physical or mental disabilities (Toros, Flaming & Burns, 2019). While chronically homeless young adults (18-24 years) have a lower unemployment rate than non-homeless peers, but also have much lower earnings (Toros et al., 2019). Due to discrimination and exclusion from formal labor markets, homeless young adults and adolescents often engage in informal and often illegal work to meet their basic survival needs (Ferguson, Bender & Thompson, 2015).

Labor markets often reinforce homelessness through insufficient available work, inconsistent pay, and tenuous relationships with employers and colleagues (Shier, Jones & Graham, 2012).

Labor markets often reinforce homelessness through insufficient available work, inconsistent pay, and tenuous relationships with employers and colleagues (Shier, Jones & Graham, 2012).

Temporary employment reinforces homelessness by consuming most of an individual’s time with finding work and meeting daily needs (such as transportation and nutrition) and leaving very little time and resources for future career planning (Shier et al., 2012). Temporary employment also prevents workers from building professional networks with their colleagues and employer and provides no recourse against employers who do not consistently pay for agreed upon hours (Shier et al., 2012).

Social Support for Homeless Employees

A supportive employer is one of the most important contributing factors in helping people transition from homelessness (Shier et al., 2012). Employers can help their employees escape homelessness in tangible ways by withholding money from their paychecks to help them save earlier and providing a work schedule that accommodates their transportation and living arrangements (Shier et al., 2012). Employers who simply express empathy for employees who struggle to find permanent housing can also have a positive impact (Shier et al., 2012).

Homeless services, especially city shelters, can also hinder employment by focusing on the general condition of homelessness instead of responding to the specific needs of residents (Shier et al., 2012). For instance, shelters that only provide meals at specific times do not meet the needs of residents that work night shifts (Shier et al., 2012). Having the same sleep schedule for all residents also may not meet the needs of those who work irregular hours (Shier et al., 2012). Having homeless services that meet the specific needs of residents, such as providing lunches for those who work during the day or allowing them to eat dinner and sleep at a later time would make it easier for residents to secure full time employment and transition into permanent housing.

While labor force participation is necessary for escaping homelessness it is not sufficient. Stable full time employment allows individuals to reallocate time spent looking for the next work opportunity to planning for future goals. Full time employment also makes it much easier for homeless individuals to retain employment and remain an active participant in their community.


Ferguson, K. M., Bender, K., & Thompson, S. J. (2015). Risk and resilience factors associated with formal and informal income generation among homeless young adults in three U.S. cities. Youth & Society, 50(3), 351-376. doi:10.1177/0044118x15600722
Fowler, P. J., Marcal, K. E., Zhang, J., Day, O., & Landsverk, J. (2019). Defining homelessness in the transition to adulthood for policy and prevention. Journal of Child and Family Studies. doi:10.1007/s10826-019-01480-y
Toros, H., Flaming, D., & Burns, P. (2019). Early intervention to prevent persistent homelessness: Predictive models for identifying unemployed workers and young adults who become persistently homeless. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3370634
Shier, M. L., Jones, M. E., & Graham, J. R. (2012). Employment difficulties experienced by employed homeless People: Labor market factors that contribute to and maintain homelessness. Journal of Poverty,16(1), 27-47. doi:10.1080/10875549.2012.640522

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Problem With Legalization

Legalization seems to me to be more of a strategy to tighten state control over psychoactive substances than one to promote greater consumer freedom or even remotely recognize the right of self-ownership. Perhaps this is a case of the unintended effects of how 'legalization' is implemented (as a top down process), but I tend to err on the cynical side of things, believing politicians to be psychopathic, and thus pathologically manipulative (there is a mountain of evidence for this narrative). Despite the widespread 'legalization' efforts across the country legal, access to these plants is still hidden behind prohibitive licensing and permit barriers and buried under steep taxes. Even after marijuana is 'legalized' people are still thrown in jail for using and selling it. I would venture to say this has more to do with the state debt crisis than some turn about face from the war on drugs and the overall push towards totalitarianism. The real motive is probably to generate more revenue for state coffers, as we already know this plant has created a revenue windfall for the states that have already legalized it.

Adverse Impact of Cannabis Licensing on Poor and Minority Communities

The first question we should ask is who benefits? While some will reap the riches of a booming cannabis industry others will be left out, not due to a lack of merit or work ethic, but because of licensing statutes that make it prohibitively expensive for some to enter the new industry. For instance, the state of Michigan requires prospective cannabis entrepreneurs to pay a $6,000 state application fee, $66,000 in regulatory assessments, and a $5,000 municipality fee. On top of these overhead costs, prospective entrepreneurs must have a clean record, with no previous convictions for drug possession, and at least $200,000 in capital assets to start. Unsurprisingly, this has had the, perhaps intended, effect of disproportionately excluding minority communities from the legal cannabis industry. Of the 233 dispensary and growing licenses issued in Michigan, only 6 have been issued to non-white entrepreneurs. To make matters worse, the cannabis boom has also spurred real-estate speculation that has made it harder for cash strapped entrepreneurs to lease commercial space for cannabis dispensaries.

We found that so many out-of-state investors had come in and had bought up all the properties in Detroit’s green zone and were just sitting on them. That was the biggest hindrance for us, she said, referring to areas at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and churches. We don’t own this facility, but we have a 100-year lease, which renews every year and it increases.

As I have pointed out in a previous post,, regulatory capture is a problem in every state that has legalized cannabis. Racial disparities in licensing largely reflect racial disparities in drug enforcement and existing wealth. In every state that has legalized cannabis in some capacity, Black Americans are still 2 to 11 times more likely to be arrested for possession than White Americans even with similar rates of possession and use.

‘After Colorado legalized cannabis through ballot initiative in 2012, the total number of arrests for possession fell 52%; however, Black Americans in Colorado were arrested at nearly twice the rate of White Americans even though Colorado is 84% white. Even after Alaska legalized cannabis in 2014, Black Americans are still arrested for possession at ten times the rate of white Americans. Black Americans only make up 4% of Alaska's population but constitute 29% of people arrested for possession. In Washington D.C. where cannabis is also legal, Black Americans are arrested for possession at 11 times the rate of White Americans; however, white and Black Americans consume cannabis at about the same rate.’

The Solution

Expunging criminal records of previous convictions for possession and distribution of cannabis, providing financial reparations for individuals incarcerated for these activities, and removing licensing requirements, allowing a free market in cannabis, would level the playing field and allow more individuals and communities to profit from the new industry. If politicians were genuine about their ‘war on poverty’ they would spend more time opening up new economic opportunities to poor communities and less time, and money, on means tested welfare programs; the latter can only keep people at a subsistence level; the former actually creates additional wealth and raises the standard of living.

The Implications of "Implied Consent"

The recent Supreme Court opinion in the case of Mitchell v. Wisconsin upheld the doctrine of “implied consent”, specifically within the context of a Wisconsin state law that allows police to have blood drawn from drunk driving suspects without a warrant. The majority opinion justified this on the grounds of exigent circumstances, that evidence, in this case alcohol in the bloodstream, may be destroyed before police can obtain and execute a warrant. In this case, the “destruction of evidence”, is simply the body’s natural process of absorbing alcohol, which is categorically different from a suspect consciously and deliberately destroying evidence to evade arrest. Such an analogy would open up the possibility of making refusing a breathalyzer or a drug test a criminal offence. Of course, “implied consent” also goes beyond BAC testing or any other ‘exigent circumstances.’ The idea that you can give consent without knowingly and explicitly giving consent is absurd on its face and could be used to justify any number of draconian laws that hinge on your presence in a certain jurisdiction or involvement in a contractual agreement, since both could be construed as voluntary. At one time in history, this same rationale was used to justify martial rape and other forms of domestic abuse on the belief that a married woman agreed to supply sex on demand. It could also justify state molestation: random checkpoints and strip searches including very invasive cavity searches simply because a person chooses to travel through a certain area or chooses a particular mode of public transportation (all transportation is ultimately public). In fact, any property that requires a state license to use, such as a car or place of business, could very well be subject to warrantless searches and seizures under this new “implied consent” doctrine because it contradicts any meaningful notion of consent. Implied consent is contrary to the majority opinion in Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, where they held that a suspect cannot consent to a search or provide incriminating statements or evidence under duress or through coercion, which is obvious when the suspect is in police custody and physically prevented from refusing a search. The police in the Wisconsin case planned to forcibly draw blood from the suspect, without a warrant, even before he passed out and gave “implied consent.” Consent was never in question.