NYU Urban Seminar: O’Flaherty on Panhandling in Downtown Manhattan

News & Events | November 17th 2015

On November 17th, the NYU Urban Seminar Series, co-hosted by the NYU Furman Center and Marron Institute, welcomed Dan O'Flaherty, professor of economics at Columbia University. He presented his preliminary research on panhandling in Manhattan, which explores location as a possible determinant of panhandler behavior and preference (see "Panhandling in Downtown Manhattan").

O'Flaherty explains that location does indeed seem to affect panhandler behavior. Some locations, such as Wall Street or Broadway, are more likely to have panhandlers on them than those with less pedestrian traffic. However, due to the high volume of traffic on these major thoroughfares (some see as many as 3000 people per hour), there seems to be no aggressive jockeying for position among panhandlers. The interaction between panhandlers and pedestrians on these main streets is rather calm and detached because, with so many people passing by, there is no need to actively solicit any one individual person for a donation. 

O'Flaherty suggests that panhandlers do not seem able to articulate why one location may be better than another. There is frequent switching among them but not necessarily a relationship between location and the ability to solicit more money. 

The NYU Urban Seminar series is co-hosted by the NYU Furman Center and the Marron Institute. The speaker series is focused on research with implications for urban policy, and features a variety of researchers from across the U.S. discussing their work. View the full list of fall 2015 speakers. The NYU Urban Seminar is open to the public; registration is required.

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