Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 893–924 | Cite as

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

  • Deborah A. Cobb-Clark
  • Anna ZhuEmail author
Original Paper


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.


Employment Homelessness Welfare receipt Education Incarceration 

JEL Classification

J1 J2 I2 



The authors would like to thank the anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP140102614).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)BonnGermany
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life CourseThe University of QueenslandQueenslandAustralia
  3. 3.The University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social ResearchThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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