New York Times lowballs homeless numbers

Thomas Lifson
Estimates of the number of homeless have a long history of politics trumping accuracy. When President Reagan was in office, the American media often quoted made-up figures from "advocates" along with the mantra that many of us were "one paycheck away" from living on the streets ourselves.

But yesterday, the New York Times published a surprisingly low estimate of the number of homeless. But this time, the estimate was for the number of homeless in France. John Rosenthal of the Transatlantic Intelligencer, an invaluable source for information on Europe, explains:

The following from an article on French homelessness in today's NYTimes by the Times's man in Paris, Craig S. Smith. 
Given France's well-financed social services, the country's homeless problem is relatively mild - the national statistics bureau estimated the number of people living without a fixed address on any one night at 86,000 for all of France in 2004, about equal to the number of homeless in Los Angeles alone. But even that number is disturbing for the socially active segment of France's population.
This reassuringly low official French homelessness figure of 86,000 is widely-cited in the docile French media and it is sometimes even dated, as in the NYTimes article, to 2004. In fact, however, it dates from a study conducted by the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies [INSEE] in 2001, i.e. well before the currently ongoing explosion in French homelessness became painfully obvious to anyone walking down a Parisian street (except, evidently, Craig S. Smith). 

Moreover, even when it was first made public in 2002, the 86,000 INSEE figure was criticized for underestimating the real extent of homelessness in France. Anne-Laure Pham, writing in a recent issue of the French weekly L'Express, notes that French charitable associations -- already at the time -- put the real figure "between 100,000 and 800,000."
All the news that fits their prejudices....
Estimates of the number of homeless have a long history of politics trumping accuracy. When President Reagan was in office, the American media often quoted made-up figures from "advocates" along with the mantra that many of us were "one paycheck away" from living on the streets ourselves.

But yesterday, the New York Times published a surprisingly low estimate of the number of homeless. But this time, the estimate was for the number of homeless in France. John Rosenthal of the Transatlantic Intelligencer, an invaluable source for information on Europe, explains:

The following from an article on French homelessness in today's NYTimes by the Times's man in Paris, Craig S. Smith. 
Given France's well-financed social services, the country's homeless problem is relatively mild - the national statistics bureau estimated the number of people living without a fixed address on any one night at 86,000 for all of France in 2004, about equal to the number of homeless in Los Angeles alone. But even that number is disturbing for the socially active segment of France's population.
This reassuringly low official French homelessness figure of 86,000 is widely-cited in the docile French media and it is sometimes even dated, as in the NYTimes article, to 2004. In fact, however, it dates from a study conducted by the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies [INSEE] in 2001, i.e. well before the currently ongoing explosion in French homelessness became painfully obvious to anyone walking down a Parisian street (except, evidently, Craig S. Smith). 

Moreover, even when it was first made public in 2002, the 86,000 INSEE figure was criticized for underestimating the real extent of homelessness in France. Anne-Laure Pham, writing in a recent issue of the French weekly L'Express, notes that French charitable associations -- already at the time -- put the real figure "between 100,000 and 800,000."
All the news that fits their prejudices....