The prevalence of homelessness among adolescents in the United States

Am J Public Health. 1998 Sep;88(9):1325-9. doi: 10.2105/ajph.88.9.1325.


Objectives: Homeless adolescents represent one of the nation's most vulnerable populations. This study reports the 12-month prevalence of homeless episodes among US adolescents.

Methods: Personal, audiotaped interviews were conducted in 1992 and 1993 with a representative household sample of 6496 adolescents aged 12 to 17 as part of the Youth Risk behavior Survey sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Respondents reported whether they had spent the night in any of a variety of locations other than home during the previous 12 months.

Results: Altogether, 7.6% of the youths questioned reported that they had spent at least 1 night in youth or adult shelter (3.3%), public place (2.2%), an abandoned building (1.0%), outside 2.2%), underground (0.4%), or with a stranger (1.1%). Boys were much more likely than girls to report having experienced a homeless episode.

Conclusions: This study suggests that homelessness among adolescents is not simply an urban problem and that prevention programs targeting homeless youths should be implemented nationwide. Additional research is needed to assess the frequency and duration of homeless experiences. Future studies of homelessness in the general population should include questions pertinent to adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Child
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Family
  • Female
  • Homeless Youth / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Poverty
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • United States
  • Urban Population