, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 83-101

Sociodemographic and health-related risk factors among African-American, Caucasian and Hispanic homeless men: A comparative study

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Abstract

Data from a 1989–1990 cross-sectional survey of homeless adults in California were stratified by ethnicity to examine whether adverse childhood events and adult medical disorders preceding homelessness differed between 269 African-American, 599 Caucasian, 201 foreign-born Hispanic, and 136 native-born Hispanic men. Although African-Americans were overrepresented (21%) compared with their presence in local (3%) and state (7%) populations, within the homeless they were better educated and more likely to have held white collar jobs than Caucasians or Hispanics. In addition, despite being more likely to grow up in poverty, African-Americans reported lower prevalences of alcohol and drug abuse, overnight psychiatric hospitalizations, placement in foster care, and physical or sexual abuse than Caucasians. Foreign-born Hispanics were the most likely to have low levels of education and job skills, but were least impaired by adult medical disorders. Native-born Hispanics reported lower rates of adverse childhood events, illegal drug use, and psychiatric hospitalizations than Caucasians, but were most likely among the three ethnic groups to suffer from alcohol abuse. The lower prevalences of adverse childhood events, addictive disorders, and psychiatric hospitalizations among homeless African-Americans, despite their higher representation in absolute numbers, suggests that factors such as childhood poverty may play a disproportionate role in homelessness among this ethnic minority group.