Homeless and Housed Families in Los Angeles

A Study Comparing Demographic, Economic, and Family Function Characteristics

Published in: American Journal of Public Health, v. 80, no. 9, Sept. 1990, p. 1049-1052

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1989

by David L. Wood, Robert Otto Burciaga Valdez, Toshi Hayashi, Albert Shen

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The authors studied 196 homeless and 194 housed poor families in Los Angeles, California to gain an understanding of events that precipitate family homelessness. Both homeless and housed poor mothers averaged 29 years old and were accompanied by two or three children. Three-fourths of both the homeless and housed families had income below the poverty level, and both groups expended almost two-thirds of their income on housing. Mothers in homeless families more commonly reported spousal abuse (35 vs 16 percent), child abuse (28 vs 10 percent), drug use (43 vs. 30 percent), or mental health problems (14 vs 6 percent) and weaker support networks. Homeless mothers more commonly came from homes where their parents abused drugs or alcohol (49 vs 34 percent) or more commonly lived outside the home or in foster care (35 vs 25 percent). Homelessness was reported as due primarily to economic pressures of housing costs, but personal and family problems frequently played a contributing role, especially for single parent families. Burdens of increasing housing costs and family dysfunction among housed poor families place many at risk for homelessness.

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