Most things most people believe are wrong

The title of this post comes from the one and only Terry Pratchett, specifically the witch Granny Weatherwax in Equal Rites, but it may as well be the mantra of the social sciences. My job as a policy analyst revolves, in part, around people’s misconceptions and thus this post: a list of the things I’ve recently learned most people believe, that aren’t quite true. 

First up is the Bay Area.  San Francisco has a serious homeless problem and the question facing everyone is what to do about it.  Upon arriving in the Bay Area I learned it is common knowledge that people come to SF from all over the nation to be homeless because of the great benefits provided by the city.
Except they don’t. 
In 2017 only 10% of the homeless on the streets of SF come from other states (2007-2017 average 12%, median 10%).  The numbers were about double for the homeless that came from other parts of CA (21% in 2017, 2007 average and median were 18%). 
So in 2017 69% of the homeless people in San Francisco became homeless in the city. On top of that, in 2015, of those who lived in SF when they became homeless 49% of them lived in the city ten years ago.  
(All of the above numbers come from the HUD mandated Point in Time Homeless counts and surveys conducted by the City of San Francisco.)

San Francisco has a homeless problem, but it doesn’t seem to be people moving from elsewhere… even though the city gives them free cell phones.  Which would be a draw, if this weren’t a national program called Lifeline.  California is one of the two most generous states with the program (Oklahoma is the other), but the free cell phone program is on the state and national level. It isn’t the city. 

In another vein, the threat colleges pose to free speech is a favorite topic of those on the right. Yet a recent article summarizing data from a series of sources paints a different picture. The number of people being fired, or dis-invited, over their political opinions or things they say doesn’t appear to break the triple digits per year and some data points to liberals being silenced more often than conservatives. 

On an entirely different topic, the average life expectancy worldwide is about 70 years, so that’s pretty cool. 

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