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Employment and Earnings Among NYC Homeless Adults

A study published in Cityscape, “Employment and Earnings Trajectories During Two Decades Among Adults in New York City Homeless Shelters” suggests an association between employment shocks and the onset of homelessness. Nonetheless, 45% of homeless single adults and 38% of homeless adults in families still earned wages from employment while homeless. The findings of the study also indicate that homeless single adults and homeless adults in families have different employment recovery experiences after exiting a shelter. The study authors are Stephen Metraux, Jamison Fargo, Nicholas Eng, and Dennis Culhane.

The researchers matched two large administrative datasets containing shelter use and employment data for 160,525 homeless adults in New York City from 1990 to 2002. The sample was divided into two comparison groups, homeless single adults (62%) and homeless adults in families (38%).  The two datasets were shelter use records from the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and earnings records from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The findings of the study suggest an association between job-related shocks and the onset of homelessness for both homeless single adults and homeless adults in families. Among homeless single adults, the employment rate dropped from 52% prior to entering shelter to 45% during their shelter stay. Among homeless adults in families, the employment rate dropped from 43% prior to entering shelter to 38% during their shelter stay.

The employment levels of homeless single adults and homeless adults in families appeared to diverge following homelessness. For single adults, employment levels steadily declined between entering and exiting shelter from 52% to 42%, while employment levels for adults in families increased from 38% to 58% between entering and exiting shelter. In addition, 63% of homeless adults in families exited shelter to stable living situations compared to just 20% of homeless single adults.

Working homeless single adults, however, earned more on average than working homeless adults in families prior to, during, and after their shelter stays. Working homeless single adults earned an average annual income from wages of $12,965 prior to initial stay in a shelter, $8,029 during shelter stay, and $15,291 after exiting shelter. Average annual income from wages among working homeless adults in families was $8,483 prior to initial stay in a shelter, $7,342 during shelter stay, and $13,531 after exiting shelter.

The authors suggest that differences in employment and earnings between homeless single adults and homeless adults in families were driven by demographic factors, namely gender and age. Most homeless adults in families were female and most single adults were male, and men tend to earn more than women in the general workforce. In addition, homeless adults in families tended to be younger than homeless single adults. While the employment rate among older homeless (or formerly homeless) adults was lower, earnings among those who still worked were higher.

Employment and Earnings Trajectories During Two Decades Among Adults in New York City Homeless Shelters is at: https://bit.ly/2vr0Z2T.