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Executive Summary

America’s Youngest Outcasts reports on child homelessness in the United States based on the most recent federal data that comprehensively counts homeless children, using more than 30 variables from over a dozen established data sets.

A staggering 2.5 million children are now homeless each year in America. This historic high represents one in every 30 children in the United States. Child homelessness increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia from 2012 to 2013. Children are homeless in every city, county, and state—every part of our country.

Based on a calculation using the most recent U.S. Department of Education’s count of homeless children in U.S. public schools and on 2013 U.S. Census data:

  • 2,483,539 children experienced homelessness in the U.S. in 2013.
  • This represents one in every 30 children in the U.S.

From 2012 to 2013, the number of children experiencing homelessness annually in the U.S.:

  • Increased by 8% nationally.
  • Increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Increased by 10% or more in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Major causes of homelessness for children in the U.S. include: (1) the nation’s high poverty rate; (2) lack of affordable housing across the nation; (3) continuing impacts of the Great Recession; (4) racial disparities; (5) the challenges of single parenting; and (6) the ways in which traumatic experiences, especially domestic violence, precede and prolong homelessness for families.

The impact of homelessness on the children, especially young children, is devastating and may lead to changes in brain architecture that can interfere with learning, emotional self- regulation, cognitive skills, and social relationships. The unrelenting stress experienced by the parents, most of whom are women parenting alone, may contribute to residential instability, unemployment, ineffective parenting, and poor health.

We encourage you to use the information in the report, and ask that you cite it as follows: America’s Youngest Outcasts: A Report Card on Child Homelessness. (2014). Waltham, MA: The National Center on Family Homelessness at American Institutes for Research. Photo Credits: John Soares (www.johnsoares.com); Ren Haoyuan Design: Jeannine Owens (www.gliddonowens.com)

Publication Details
Published year only: 
2014
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