Social Ties and the Incidence of Homelessness


Although almost all homeless people are poor, most poor people do not experience homelessness. We use a detailed national survey to explore the role of social ties—including connection to relatives, friends, and religious community—in explaining why only a subset of poor adults fall into homelessness. We find that lifetime incidence of homelessness is reduced by 60% for individuals with strong ties along each of these dimensions. Ties to relatives are most important, followed by ties to religious community, whereas ties to friends are not associated with reduced incidence of homelessness. We also find that among currently low-income individuals, social ties are not associated with income, providing evidence that our results are not explained by unobserved variation in historical depth of poverty that is potentially correlated with our measures of social ties.

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Housing Policy Debate