Many people would like to give money to homeless people on the street, but are hesitant because they are not sure where the money is going or whether the person really needs it. If you could be assured that a panhandler was truly in need and not going to spend the money on drugs or alcohol, many more people would give a few dollars or cents.
Tim Harford (who wrote the article you are reading this week in class) uses this idea to formulate a question: if you could ask 10 bums one common question, and give money to only one of them based on their answer, what would the question be?
One thing to keep in mind is that the bums know what you are doing, and therefore, are tempted to lie.
What would you ask and how would you decide who to give the money to?
Here are some possibilities from the economists who write for Marginal Revolution.