Economic Resources of the Homeless

Evidence from Los Angeles

Published in: Contemporary Economic Policy, v. XVI, July 1998, p. 295-308

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1998

by Robert F. Schoeni, Paul Koegel

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This paper examines the economic resources of homeless adults using a unique data set from Los Angeles. The homeless rely on a variety of sources for income; the two most common sources are the government and the family. Over 58 per cent received government transfers in the 30 days prior to the interview, while one-third had received cash assistance from a family member or friend. Familial transfers in the form of shared housing and meals also are important. While familial transfers buffer declines in income among the homeless, private support networks are not pervasive enough to overcome the severe difficulties the homeless face. Moreover, it is unclear why such a high share of homeless do not participate in government programs, although the evidence suggests that transaction costs are likely to be an important factor.

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