OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) – Do panhandlers make more money than you?
One Oregon man wanted to find out for himself, so he stood on an exit ramp in Oregon City for two weeks.
He said a panhandler can make more than minimum wage. His informal “study” took place at the exit ramp off highways 205 and 99 in Oregon City.
The man behind the study, David Spears, spent two weeks last summer on that Oregon City exit ramp — and recorded his findings.
“I got my oldest pair of work pants, a ratty T-shirt, I grew out my beard as far as it would go,” Spears told KOIN 6 News.
And he made — on average — $11.10 an hour. That’s more than $2 above Oregon’s minimum wage of $8.95.
“That’s tax-free money too,” Spears said of the typical panhandling arrangement.
“My previous experience I was working mall security at an Oregon mall,” Spears said. “And I actually made more panhandling than I did working as a security guard.”
Spears spent 80 hours over 12 days panhandling and brought in $887.97. On his worst day he made $5.13 per hour; on his best day he made $24.63 per hour.
He also found men donate more than women, but women tend to donate a larger amount.
Spears was surprised at the generosity he encountered.
“Not only did I make above minimum wage, I was offered a legitimate job when I was out panhandling on my first day,” he said. “I was offered free lunches, Gatorade, cigarettes, and a beer on one occasion.”
Spears studied economics at George Fox University, and said these results lead him to believe panhandling, in theory, could pull a person out of poverty if treated like a job.
But, he adds that his 12 days on this one street represent only a small sample size. Finding out if it would really work is something he hopes to answer as he continues his studies.
Other panhandlers told KOIN 6 News their experience is different.
One man said he was lucky if he made 27 cents an hour. Another viewer said the sign Spears held that said “Iraq Vet” is the reason people were so generous.
Spears, who actually is an Iraq war vet as his sign claimed, plans to donate all the money he collected on the street to a charity for veterans.
A book about his experience, “Exit Ramp: A shortcase study on the profitability of panhandling,” is expected to be available Thursday on Amazon.com.