, Volume 50, Issue 6, pp 2227–2253 | Cite as

Life Shocks and Homelessness

  • Marah A. CurtisEmail author
  • Hope Corman
  • Kelly Noonan
  • Nancy E. Reichman


We exploited an exogenous health shock—namely, the birth of a child with a severe health condition—to investigate the effect of a life shock on homelessness in large cities in the United States as well as the interactive effects of the shock with housing market characteristics. We considered a traditional measure of homelessness, two measures of housing instability thought to be precursors to homelessness, and a combined measure that approximates the broadened conceptualization of homelessness under the 2009 Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (2010). We found that the shock substantially increases the likelihood of family homelessness, particularly in cities with high housing costs. The findings are consistent with the economic theory of homelessness, which posits that homelessness results from a conjunction of adverse circumstances in which housing markets and individual characteristics collide.


Homelessness Health shocks Housing costs Housing instability Life shocks 



This research was supported by Grants #R01-HD-45630 and #R01-HD-35301 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. We are grateful for helpful input from Susan Averett, Dan O’Flaherty, Amy Crews Cutts, participants at Lafayette College Economics Department Seminar Series, participants at 2011 NBER Spring Health Economics Workshop, participants at Center for Homelessness Prevention Studies Grand Rounds at Columbia University, and participants at the Economics seminar series at the University of Iceland, as well as for valuable assistance from Oliver Joszt and Taťána Čepková.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 153 kb)


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marah A. Curtis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hope Corman
    • 2
  • Kelly Noonan
    • 2
  • Nancy E. Reichman
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsRider University and National Bureau of Economic ResearchLawrencevilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pediatrics, Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolChild Health Institute of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA

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