Wednesday, December 22, 2004

WORLD ENDS - Women, Minorities Hardest Hit

Since Best of the Web is on vacation this week, someone has to take up the slack on stories like this (as an added bonus, you could also file it under Homeless Rediscovery Watch):

AP's report from Honolulu on that city's observation of National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day (I think it replaces Christmas) includes this startling fact:
The homeless coalition (the Washington-based National Coalition of Homeless - seems to be missing a "the") estimates there are more than 3.5 million homeless Americans nationwide. An estimated 3,000 died last year, and the homeless coalition expects that figure to rise this year.
The startling figure isn't the number of homeless persons, but their mortality rate. 3,000 deaths among 3.5 million people works out to a mortality rate of 85.71 deaths per 100,000, which seemed kind of low. My two minute search for national mortality figures on Google yielded Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2002 from volume 52, number 13 of the CDC's National Vital Statistics reports which puts the age-adjusted death rate for the U.S. in 2002 at 846.8 per 100,000 population.

Assuming that these figures are roughly comparable, a non-homeless person is nearly ten times as likely to die in a given year than a homeless person. Maybe there's something to all that talk of healthy outdoor living!

Not to make light of the plight of the homeless, but clearly the stats quoted are wrong. Not only that, even if you accepted them, they disprove the case the coalition is trying to make, i.e., that the homeless endure lives that are, to quote Hobbes "nasty, brutish and short". Throwing bogus statistics around doesn't help.