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Permanent Homelessness in America?


  • Richard B. Freeman
  • Brian Hall


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard B. Freeman & Brian Hall, 1986. "Permanent Homelessness in America?," NBER Working Papers 2013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2013
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stephen W. Salant, 1977. "Search Theory and Duration Data: A Theory of Sorts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 91(1), pages 39-57.
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    Cited by:

    1. I. Garfinkel & I. Piliavin, "undated". "Trends in the size of the nation's homeless population during the 1980s: A surprising result," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1034-94, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    2. Donal O'Neill, 2000. "Evaluating Labour Market Interventions," Economics, Finance and Accounting Department Working Paper Series n990300, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth.
    3. I. Piliavin & B. R.E. Wright & R. D. Mare & A. H. Westerfelt, "undated". "The dynamics of homelessness," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1035-94, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.

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