Panel Paper: No Place Like Home: Outcomes for Students Experiencing Homelessness in Los Angeles

Friday, November 9, 2018
8226 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Soledad De Gregorio, Tasminda K. Dhaliwal, Ann Owens and Gary Painter, University of Southern California

Los Angeles is experiencing a homelessness crisis. On any given night 34,189 people experience homelessness in the city of Los Angeles. As more and more families become homeless, the number of children experiencing homeless has also increased substantially. Mirroring regional trends, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools have experienced a 50% increase in the number of students identified as homeless between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school year.

The present study describes homeless students in LAUSD schools and how movements in and out of homelessness affect their outcomes. It is likely that children who are chronically homeless or are homeless multiple times experience more acute challenges than those who are homeless once. Exploring the effects of homelessness on student outcomes will offer new insights about the mechanisms through which homelessness affects students and could help design better interventions and assistance programs to target the diverse needs within the homeless population.

Using LAUSD student-level administrative data from 2009 to 2017 we are able to conduct a longitudinal analysis that tracks students from K to 12th grade and examines the differential effects of being homeless during a short term versus being persistently homeless. Specifically, we aim to answer:

  • How long do students remain homeless? What characteristics predict length or frequency of homeless spells?
  • What is the relationship between academic and behavioral outcomes and homeless status for LAUSD students? Does the relationship differ by residence or duration of homelessness?

We plan to answer these questions using descriptive statistical techniques. In this study we generate various measures of homeless incidence to compare the effects of transient and longer term homelessness. The outcomes of interest are student attendance, academic achievement, and exits from the district.

Initial analysis shows that between the 2008-09 and 2016-17 school years between 8,000 and 17,000 students report being homeless annually in LAUSD schools. In the 2016-17 school year 3.2% of students identified as homeless. Homeless students were more likely to be minority, eligible for free and reduced price lunch, English learners, and have parents with lower levels of education than non-homeless students. The most frequent residence of students experiencing homelessness was living in the homes of family or friends, often referred to as ‘doubling-up’.

To our knowledge, this is the first extended longitudinal study of homelessness that focuses specifically on students and how they are affected by housing instability. The nuances in the homeless experiences of students have been underexplored. The study will contribute a better understanding of homelessness within schools and allow for more innovative policy solutions that take into account the heterogeneity of students’ needs. The findings will be valuable to districts and researchers working to improve the provision of services and protections for students experiencing homelessness.