Dan Ariely wonders if the generosity of cities can be determined by comparing ratios of free furniture to furniture for sale on Craigslist. Does generosity really account for the differences in the list he compiled, or might some other factors explain the disparities?
Chicago falls at the moderately low end of Craigslist furniture giveaways, but if you want to give something away in Chicago, the easiest way to do so is to leave it in the alley near the trash cans or dumpsters. There are alleys behind nearly all residences and scavengers cruise the alleys every day. Mostly they're looking for metal, but if you leave furniture in an alley it will usually go. No need for Craigslist, no need to set appointments with people who may or may not show up and no fear of who might show up at your home.
My guess is it's actually illegal to leave things in the alleys, but it's a widely accepted practice. I'd go so far as to say that the scavengers have become an essential service in these parts.
In Chicago it seems that most of the scavengers are Mexican immigrants. Is scavenging more common in cities with large Mexican immigrant populations? Do other cities even allow this practice?