Childhood Homelessness and Adult Employment: The Role of Education, Incarceration, and Welfare Receipt

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 18/15

Date: 2015


Deborah A. Cobb-Clark
Anna Zhu


This paper analyzes children’s long-term consequences of experiencing homelessness. Our primary goal is to assess the importance of the potential pathways linking childhood homelessness to adult employment. We use novel panel data that link survey and administrative data for a sample of disadvantaged adults who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We find that those experiencing homelessness for the first time as children are less likely to be employed than those who were never homeless as a child. For women, this relationship is largely explained by the lower educational attainment and higher welfare receipt (both in general and in the form of mental illness-related disability payments) of those experiencing childhood homelessness. Higher rates of high-school incompletion and incarceration explain some of the link between childhood homelessness and men’s employment, however, childhood homelessness continues to have a substantial direct effect on male employment rates.

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  • Employment, homelessness, welfare receipt, education, incarceration