A consistent and often-growing problem across the world’s cities, big and small, homelessness is compounded by a number socioeconomic, political and environmental conditions with the global refugee crisis only adding to the number of people living on the streets.

Analyzing the 10 cities with the highest homeless populations in the world – Manila, New York City, Los Angeles, Moscow, Mexico City, Jakarta, Mumbai, Buenos Aires, Budapest and Sao Paolo – we found that some assumptions and leaps of logic regarding homelessness were not true, or only partially true.

According to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, there is an estimated 100 million homeless people worldwide and a massive 3.1 million of those, including 70,000 children, reside on the streets of Manila (a homeless population so large we had to scale it down by a factor of 10 to fit in our first graph). However, the assumption that this is a direct result of economic conditions is not necessarily an accurate one: the Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, recording nearly 7% annual growth. On the other hand, like Jakarta, Manila’s level of displacement can be attributed to inequality and the city’s geographic and environmental vulnerability to natural disasters.

The assumption that homelessness and crime go hand-in-hand is inaccurate too: Mexico City, Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires’ Crime Index ratings far exceed their homelessness levels, while in Budapest – a city whose rate of homelessness shot up due to the ongoing refugee crisis – has far more homeless people than the three Latin American cities, and a Crime Index rating far lower.

One of the many factors contributing to urban homelessness is the affordability of housing, measured by Price to Income ratio. Measured by putting median home price against median familial disposable income, as seen in the final graph, the ratio has been almost categorically increasing around the world. The only city bucking the trend this year is Jakarta, following a big push for new, affordable housing as the city ramps up its infrastructural efforts ahead of Indonesia hosting of the 2018 Asian Games.

urban homelessness

urban homelessness crime



graph 5-03