Originally published in Cities
Urban panhandling and its regulation are global phenomena. Panhandling regulation, like other regulation, is likely to be effective only if it is informed about that which it regulates. We investigate whether American panhandling regulation is informed by examining what information about American panhandlers is available to inform it. Information is available about panhandlers' demographics, housing, income, and psychological health. Information is not available about the determinants of panhandling activities. Since those activities are the target of panhandling regulation, this suggests that American panhandling regulation is uninformed. And since American panhandlers are among the most studied in the world, it further suggests that panhandling regulation in most other countries may also be uninformed. Economic analysis of the potential (in)effectiveness of uninformed panhandling regulation suggests that existing panhandling regulation in US cities may not reduce public nuisance associated with panhandlers and may even increase it.