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A journey home: What drives how long people are homeless?


  • Cobb-Clark, Deborah A.
  • Herault, Nicolas
  • Scutella, Rosanna
  • Tseng, Yi-Ping


This paper uses survival analysis to model exits from two alternative forms of homelessness: sleeping on the streets (‘literal homelessness’) and not having a home of one's own (‘housing insecurity’). We are unique in being able to account for time-invariant, unobserved heterogeneity. Like previous researchers, we find results consistent with negative duration dependence in models which ignore unobserved heterogeneity. However, controlling for unobserved heterogeneity, we find that duration dependence has an inverted U-shape with exit rates initially increasing (indicating positive duration dependence) and then falling. Exit rates out of both literal homelessness and housing insecurity fall with age. Women are more likely than men to exit housing insecurity for a home of their own, but are less likely to exit literal homelessness. Persons with dependent children have higher exit rates. Finally, education seems to protect people from longer periods of housing insecurity.

Suggested Citation

  • Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Herault, Nicolas & Scutella, Rosanna & Tseng, Yi-Ping, 2016. "A journey home: What drives how long people are homeless?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 57-72.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:91:y:2016:i:c:p:57-72 DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2015.11.005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Glomm, Gerhard & John, Andrew, 2002. "Homelessness and labor markets," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 591-606, September.
    2. Marah A. Curtis & Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan & Nancy Reichman, 2011. "Life Shocks and Homelessness," NBER Working Papers 16826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Deborah A. Cobb-Clark & Anna Zhu, 2017. "Childhood homelessness and adult employment: the role of education, incarceration, and welfare receipt," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 30(3), pages 893-924, July.
    2. Herault, Nicolas & Ribar, David C., 2017. "Food insecurity and homelessness in the Journeys Home survey," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 52-66.
    3. Timothy M. Diette & David C. Ribar, 2015. "A Longitudinal Analysis of Violence and Housing Insecurity," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2015n20, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    4. Guy Johnson & David C. Ribar & Anna Zhu, 2017. "Women's Homelessness: International Evidence on Causes, Consequences, Coping and Policies," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2017n07, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    5. Johnson, Guy & Ribar, David C. & Zhu, Anna, 2017. "Women's Homelessness: International Evidence on Causes, Consequences, Coping and Policies," IZA Discussion Papers 10614, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    Homelessness; Housing insecurity; Survival analysis; Duration dependence;

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • R2 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis
    • C4 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics


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