Childhood homelessness and adult employment: the role of education, incarceration, and welfare receipt

22 September 2021

This paper examines the long-run employment consequences of experiencing homelessness in childhood rather than later in life. 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. Our estimation approach pays particular attention to the potential pathways linking childhood homelessness to adult employment. We find that those experiencing homelessness for the first time as children are less likely to be employed. 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.