By Request: Poverty Dispersal

I got to request to say something about Hannah Rosin's article on the Memphis crime experience. I don't have a ton to say about it other than that you should read the article, since I think the article itself says about everything I would want to say. But to give it a brief gloss, people hoped that tearing down public housing towers and replacing them with Section 8 vouchers would, by dispersing the people on public assistance, help mitigate the social pathologies associated with poverty by breaking up "pockets of poverty." In fact, as Rosin reports, dispersing impoverished people mostly seems to have dispersed rather than dispelled, the crime problems associated with pockets of poverty.

I'm not 100 percent sure where that leaves us. Housing vouchers still seem like a better idea than "the projects" for various reasons related to economic efficiency and choice. And as far as crime goes, we seem to mostly still know what we know -- higher wages for low-skill workers, higher educational attainment, the presence of more police officers patrolling the street, throwing enormous quantities of young men in prison, fewer drug addicts, and reductions in the amount of lead poisoning all seem to lower crime.