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Monday, Jan. 4, 2021
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)
American Economic Association
University of Notre Dame
Learning about Homelessness Using Linked Survey and Administrative Data
Official poverty statistics and even the extreme poverty literature largely ignore the homeless. In this paper, we examine the characteristics, labor market attachment, geographic mobility, earnings, and safety net utilization of individuals experiencing homelessness in order to understand their economic well-being. This project is part of the development of the Comprehensive Income Dataset, which combines household survey data with administrative records to improve estimates of income. Specifically, we use restricted microdata from the 2010 Decennial Census, which enumerates both the sheltered and unsheltered homeless, the 2006-2016 American Community Survey (ACS), which surveys the sheltered homeless, and longitudinal shelter use data from several major U.S. cities. We link these data to longitudinal administrative tax data as well as data on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), VA benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, housing assistance, and mortality. Our approach benefits from large samples that offer a guide to national homelessness patterns and allow us to compare estimates between data sources, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s point-in-time (PIT) counts. By shedding light on issues of data linkage and survey coverage among the homeless, this paper contributes to efforts to better incorporate this hard-to-survey population into income and poverty estimates.
Employment and Earnings Among LA County Residents Experiencing Homelessness
This paper studies the employment histories before, during, and after homelessness and homeless service receipt in Los Angeles. We merge administratively quarterly employment and earnings data from the State of California with data from the Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) with information on service receipt, demographic background, and housing history. Contrary to popular perception, we find a substantial amount of past and current employment in the covered sector among homeless service recipients. We find that majority (74%) of people who enrolled to receive homeless services in Los Angeles between 2010 and 2018 had worked in California before enrolling for services. Over one third (37%) worked in the two years prior to receiving homeless services, and about one in five (19%) of individuals were working in the same calendar quarter that they enrolled to receive services. While receiving homeless services, or proxies for becoming homeless, do not correlate with employment for the full sample, “recent workers” who had worked within three or four years prior to enrolling for services saw a marked reduction in employment at service enrollment. Despite these losses, this group tended to have higher employment rates and earnings than the rest of the sample. More generally, the paper analyzes which factors predispose individuals to have higher employment and earnings, and shows that this information could be used to target reemployment services.
Making It Home? Evidence on the Long-Run Impact of an Intensive Support Program for the Chronically Homeless
Interventions that combine the immediate and unconditional provision of permanent housing with various support services, known as Housing First approaches, generally improve the housing outcomes of chronically homeless individuals. Yet, little is known about their long-run outcomes or the consequences of ending such support services. We examine these two dimensions for a new intensive support pilot program for chronically homeless individuals, the Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI). We evaluate the three-year program that was implemented in Melbourne, Australia, using a randomised controlled trial over a six-year period. Our results show that the treated group achieved substantially higher rates of housing stability throughout and slightly better employment outcomes in the second and third year of the trial. We find no other systematic improvements with respect to health and health care utilisation, substance abuse, or social inclusion during the trial. Importantly, three years after program end, around two thirds of all individuals are housed, but we observe no differences between the treatment and control group with respect to housing and non-housing outcomes. Thus, despite delivering a rapid and substantial boost in housing stability, even a three-year intensive intervention program does not produce better long-run outcomes than treatment-as-usual.
Short Moves and Long Stays: Homeless Family Responses to Exogenous Shelter Assignments in New York City
Using an original administrative dataset in the context of a scarcity induced-natural experiment in New York City, I find that families placed in shelters in their neighborhoods of origin remain there considerably longer than those assigned to distant shelters. Locally-placed families also access more public benefits and are more apt to work. A fixed effects model assessing multi-spell families confirms these main results. Complementary instrumental variable and regression discontinuity designs exploiting policy shocks and rules, respectively, suggest difficult-to-place families - such as those that are large, disconnected from services, or from neighborhoods where homelessness is common -are especially sensitive to proximate placements. Better targeting through improved screening at intake can enhance program efficiency. The practice of assigning shelter based on chance vacancies ought to be replaced with a system of evidence-based placements tailored to families' resources and constraints.
The Effect of Emergency Financial Assistance on Healthcare Usage
Does insuring negative income shocks with emergency financial assistance improve health among those at risk of eviction? To answer this question, we compare callers to Chicago's Homelessness Prevention Call Center who are referred to funds to those who are not. The availability of funds varies quasi-randomly such that comparing these two groups allows us to measure the impact of assistance. Previous work has demonstrated that such assistance reduces emergency shelter use and violent crime incidents. In this paper, we link the call center data to hospital inpatient and emergency department records from the Illinois Department of Public Health and measure the impact of financial assistance on healthcare usage.
Ingrid Gould Ellen
New York University
R2 - Household Analysis
I3 - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty