Individuals may gain all or part of their living by begging, whether from door to door or in public places. In some cases attempts to increase such income may be made by deforming or mutilating the body. This may be done deliberately by the beggar or may be done by an adult, possibly the parent, dependent on the begging of children.
Begging occurs frequently, particularly in developing countries, where unemployment and shortage of food are problems. With the rise of homelessness and destitution in industrialized countries, it is increasingly evident there. In Washington, for example, where the number of blacks living below the poverty line has increased by 30% during the 1980s, male beggars are to be encountered on many street corners. In 1990 federal court decided for the first time that panhandling is a free-speech right protected by the First Amendment.
Beggars are evidence that either society has failed or the beggar has failed. Where society has failed, beggars confront individuals with this failure. Where the beggar has failed, they erode city life, it is a form of blackmail, and a protection racket. Frequently, beggars make more money begging than if they work. A beggar in China is reported to have made an average daily income equal to a months salary for a worker. A well known beggar in Bombay is known to be delivered to the place where he operates by his engineer son in a new car. Community has a right to protect a minimally civilized ambience in public spaces, like in subways, and ban panhandling.