Permanent Homelessness in America?

Richard B. Freeman, Brian Hall

NBER Working Paper No. 2013 (Also Reprint No. r1005)
Issued in September 1986
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

This paper seeks to determine the approximate number of homeless persons in the U.S., the rate of change in the number, and whether or not the problem is likely to be permanent or transitory. It makes particular use of a new 1985 survey of over 503 homeless people in New York City. It finds: (1) that the much maligned 1984 Department of Housing and Urban Affairs study was roughly correct in its estimate of 250,000 - 350,000 homeless persons for 1983; (2) the number of homeless has grown since 1983, despite economic recovery, with the number of homeless families growing especially rapidly (3) homelessness is a relatively long-term state for 6omeless individuals, who average 6-8 years of homelessness; (4) much of the homeless problem can be attributed to increases in the number of the poor in the 1980s and declines or rough constancy in the number of low-rent rental units; (5) relatively few homeless individuals receive welfare or general assistance money; a large proportion have spent time in jail. Overall, the study suggests that economic recovery will not solve the problem of homelessness, and that in the absence of changes in the housing market or in the economic position of the very poor, the U.S. will continue to be plagued with a problem of homelessness for the forseeable future.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2013

Published: Freeman, Richard B. and Brian Hall. "Permanent Homelessness in America?" Population Research and Policy Review, Vol. 6, (1987), pp. 3-27.

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