Examining the relationship between structural factors, individual characteristics, and homelessness: positioning paper

27 Jan 2015

This is the first of two reports funded by AHURI that set out to examine the relationship between structural factors, individual characteristics, and homelessness using Journeys Home (JH), a unique Australian longitudinal dataset on persons vulnerable to homelessness.

In our study we define structural factors to be area-level characteristics that could directly affect individuals’ risks of homelessness, over and above those that are reflected in the individuals' own circumstances. Two structural factors are of particular interest to us—first, the state of housing and second, labour markets of areas. Individual characteristics include demographic, biographic, and behavioural characteristics. These individual characteristics range from those over which the person has no control, such as age, through to those that are the product of unconstrained behaviour where individuals act independently, and make their own decisions (agency). Most individual characteristics lie between these two extremes. Our approach seeks to understand the interaction of area-level characteristics (i.e. structural conditions) and the characteristics of individuals. However, it is important to note that our analysis will be unable to say anything about the society-wide forces that determine how much choice or control (agency) individuals’ exercise with respect to characteristics thought to be risk factors.

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