Social Indicators Research

, Volume 130, Issue 1, pp 189–212 | Cite as

Estimating Homelessness in the Netherlands Using a Capture-Recapture Approach

  • A. M. CoumansEmail author
  • M. Cruyff
  • P. G. M. Van der Heijden
  • J. Wolf
  • H. Schmeets


This study focuses on the homeless population in the Netherlands, as an indicator of social exclusion. By applying the capture-recapture (CRC) methodology to three registers, not only the size of the homeless population could be estimated, but also its composition in terms of gender, age, place of living, and origin could be depicted. Because of the use of three registers and the availability of background characteristics for each of the registers, the usual stringent assumptions of capture recapture methodology is circumvented. This advanced application of CRC to estimate the homeless population on the national level, has led to official figures for five subsequent reference dates (January 1st of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013). In 2009 the size of the total homeless population in the Netherlands was estimated at 17,767, of which 5169 were registered on one of the three lists. Between 2009 and 2012 the estimated size of the population increased, which was largely due to the financial crisis. For all reference dates, the composition of this population showed that generally more men than women were registered and that homeless people in the age category of 30–49 years old were registered more than the younger or older age groups. Compared to the general Dutch population, the homeless population includes relatively many men, many people aged 30–49 years and people with a non-western background.


Homelessness Population size estimation CRC Background characteristics 



We thank Jacqueline van Beuningen for her help with the model selection procedure. Also, we are grateful for the anonymous reviewers’ constructive and thoughtful comments to our manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. M. Coumans
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Cruyff
    • 2
  • P. G. M. Van der Heijden
    • 2
    • 3
  • J. Wolf
    • 4
  • H. Schmeets
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Social-Economic and Spatial StatisticsStatistics NetherlandsHeerlenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Methodology and Statistics, Faculty of Behavioural and Social SciencesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Southampton Statistical Sciences Research UnitUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  4. 4.Onderzoekscentrum Maatschappelijke Zorg (Omz), Public Health, UMC St RadboudRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Maastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands

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