Poster Paper: Employment Instability of Deeply Poor Families with Children: Evidence from a Study of Families Who Experience Homelessness

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Douglas Walton, Samuel Dastrup and Jill Khadduri, Abt Associates, Inc.

Economic hardship and lack of resources are strongly associated with homelessness. Existing research has established that homeless families with children are extremely poor, and few homeless parents are working at the time they enter emergency shelter. Other research has found that housing instability can contribute to loss of employment, suggesting that the relationship between homelessness and economic hardship is not one-directional.

This paper explores patterns of employment and income instability among families with children who experience homelessness. We use a unique set of longitudinal data collected for families who participated in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developmentā€™s (HUD) Family Options Study. This data tracks the same families for three years after shelter entry, which allows us to study trends in employment, earnings, and family income over time. Using this data, we explore whether families who experience homelessness are employed, and the extent to which their employment is stable or unstable over time. We examine employment and family income by different demographic characteristics, to assess whether certain groups of families are more likely to be employed. The paper also discusses the reasons that parents report not working, and explores whether low rates of employment and low levels of income are associated with future returns to homelessness. Finally, to assess whether these results are consistent with those of other poor families, we compare the employment rates and income of adults in homeless families to other low-income workers within the same communities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) funded this research.