Why Does New York City Have 33 Times More Homeless People than Tokyo, the World’s Most Populated City?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Homeless in New York City (photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

New York City is undeniably large. The most populous city in the United States has nearly 8.5 million people. But it is nowhere near as big as Tokyo and yet the Big Apple has far more homeless than Tokyo.


The numbers are eye opening: Tokyo has 13.4 million residents, but only 1,697 are homeless. Compare that to New York, where there are 56,000 homeless. The homelessness rate there is 67 per 10,000 residents, while it’s only 1 per 10,000 in Tokyo.


Scott Keyes at ThinkProgress offered some explanations for this discrepancy between the two cities.


“First and foremost, income inequality is a massive and growing problem in the United States, while Japan has historically had one of the lowest rates of inequality among developed countries,” Keyes wrote.


Also, Japan’s government provides more social services to help the homeless than the U.S. does. “It begins with the Japanese Constitution, which unlike the U.S. version guarantees its citizens ‘the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.’ As such, the country has a far more robust safety net than the United States,” Keyes wrote. Another factor is families’ strong sense of duty to relatives in need.


Tokyo has made big strides in reducing its homeless population. In 2004, there were 6,731 homeless there, about four times as many as today.


New York has attempted to reduce the number of homeless residents by putting them in private shelters, but the program has paid more dividends for shelter owners than it has for residents, according to VICE News.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Homelessness In The World’s Largest City Just Hit A Record Low (by Scott Keyes, ThinkProgress)

Right Now, N.Y.C. Has Record Numbers Of Homeless People In Shelters.. And Billionaires (by Robbie Couch, Huffington Post)

How Private Companies Are Profiting From Homelessness in New York City (by Ben Hattem, Vice News)

Homelessness in Tokyo Hits Record Low (by Jun Hongo, Wall Street Journal)

Controversy Over the Amount of Homeless People in Tokyo (by Thor Benson, UPI)

More than One Million Schoolchildren in U.S. are Homeless (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


jim james 9 years ago
Maybe one of the reasons is we had a Mayor who quadrupled his earnings in his three terms in office, one of which was of course unconstitutional. When Bloomey came into office he supposedly had a worth around $4 billion and I hear today he's in the 16-18 billion region. Maybe that has something to do with it but that's just little old me.
Kevin Schmidt 9 years ago
It didn't take very long for the new progressive mayor to get put into the pocket of the global corporate elite oligarchy.

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