States Facing Multiple Risk Factors - State of Homelessness

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Report | January 14, 2011

Files: Chapter 4: Multiple Risk Factors | PDF | 8 pages

The first three chapters of The State of Homelessness in America demonstrate increases in homelessness (Chapter 1), worsening economic conditions facing those experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness (Chapter 2), and changes in the size of subpopulations with increased likelihood of experiencing homelessness (Chapter 3). Those chapters also address the degree to which individual states reflect national trends and the range of state-level changes for each indicator. This chapter identifies states with multiple economic and demographic risk factors for increasing homelessness and examines the relationship between the economic and demographic risk factors and homelessness.

States with multiple risk factors for increased homelessness are identified in two ways. The first way is to identify states with economic and demographic indicator rates worse than the national average. For example, the national unemployment rate for 2009 was 9.3 percent. All states with unemployment rates above 9.3 percent are considered at risk of increased homelessness due to high rates of unemployment.

Tables 4.1 lists the rates of unemployment, foreclosure, cost burden, lack of insurance, and doubling up for each of the states; Table 4.2 identifies the states with indicator rates exceeding the national average. A review of the data shows that half of the states have rates worse than the national average for at least two of the five indicators. Further, the data show that three states – California, Florida, and Nevada – have rates that exceed the national average on all five indicators; Arizona and Georgia have rates that exceed the national average on four out of five indicators.

The other way of identifying states facing multiple risk factors for increased homelessness is to look at level changes from 2008 to 2009 for the eight economic and demographic indicators presented in Chapters 2 and 3. Table 4.3 lists the percent change for each of the eight indicators for each state between 2008 and 2009; Table 4.4 identifies the states with a percent change that exceeds the national average. As an indication of the widespread impact of the economic recession, a review of the data shows that all but five states have fared worse than the nation as a whole for at least two indicators and that 15 states have fared worse than the nation as a whole for more than half of the eight indicators. And while there are no states that have fared worse than the nation as a whole on all eight indicators, two states – Alabama and Nevada – have fared worse on all but one of the indicators. Map 4.2 identifies, state-by-state, the number of indicators with a rate of change that exceeds the national average.

The other aim of this chapter is to determine the degree to which economic and demographic rates and rates of change are associated with greater homelessness. The national rate of homelessness for 2009 is 21 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population and the national change in the size of the homeless population in 3.1 percent. A review of Map 4.1 shows that all three of the states with higher than average rates in all five indicators (unemployment, foreclosure, cost-burden, lack of insurance, and doubling up) – California, Florida, and Nevada – have rates of homelessness that exceed the national rate. These states also experienced percent increases in homelessness from 2008 to 2009 that were greater than the national change. Map 4.1 also shows that in addition to the states that have higher than average rates on all five indicators, there are also two states – Arizona and Georgia - with higher than average rates on four of five of the indicators. As further evidence of the effect of multiple risk factors on homelessness, the maps show that Arizona has an above-average homelessness rate and a percent increase in homelessness from 2008 to 2009 that exceeds the national change, and Georgia had a percent increase in homelessness from 2008 to 2009 that exceeds the national change.

Finally, one economic indicator with a particularly strong relationship to homelessness is severe housing cost burden. As an indication of this relationship, 10 of the 14 states (71 percent) with rates of homelessness above the national average have rates of severe housing cost burden that are also above the national average in 2009.

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