Thursday, August 09, 2007

Glaeser on Brooks on Obama and Edwards

Ed Glaeser has a good op-ed over at the NY Sun. In the Op-Ed he discusses Obama and Edwards' respective approaches on anti-poverty measures and argues in favor of Edwards' approach as it is person based as opposed to place-based. Edwards has been advocating housing vouchers whereas Obama seems to be hitching his wagon to a new generation of urban renewal. I am not knowledgeable in these areas but that doesn't ever stop me so here goes:

Depending on the income restrictions (i.e. assuming Edwards' proposed housing vouchers are not a middle class subsidy) they would be eminently preferable to current affordable housing solutions for lower income folks. For awhile now our solution to the housing needs of the poor is to create public housing. The problem with public housing is a little concept called peer effects. You might remember as a child how there was always one friend who your mother cautioned you against associating with. She didn't want you to become a young hoodlum and one way to guard against that was to prevent you from hanging out with other hoodlums so that their ill considered ways never rubbed off on you. That in a nutshell is peer effects, our parents have always intuitively understood it even when our politicians don't. Bundling the indigent and throwing them in a building will provide adequate shelter, but it will also foster intergenerational poverty, children being born out of wedlock, and criminality. Poor people typically lack social capital and public housing perpetuates this state of affairs.

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