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Racial Disparities in Homelessness Even Worse than Poverty PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 March 2012 07:58

While shocking, it comes as no surprise to learn that black families are significantly more likely than their white counterparts to live in poverty.  In 2010, nearly one quarter (23.3%) of black families lived in poverty, three times the rate of white families (7.1%).   However, a recent report finds that racial variances in homelessness are even greater, with black family members seven times more likely than white family members to have lived in a homeless shelter during the prior year.   In New York City, the racial discrepancies are far worse again – with blacks an extraordinary 42 times more likely to have lived in shelter than white residents.

“The unfortunate fact is that black families in the United States are much more likely to experience poverty than their white counterparts, and are overwhelmingly represented in homeless shelters throughout the country,” said Ralph da Costa Nunez, President and CEO of the Institute for Children Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH) which conducted the study.  “This report raises the question of how family homelessness has moved beyond simply a poverty issue and become a racial one.”

The ICPH report -- “Intergenerational Disparities Experienced by Homeless Black Families" – found that in 2010, one out of every 141 black family members stayed in a homeless shelter, a rate seven times higher than members of white families.  Black persons in families make up 12.1% of the U.S. family population, but represented 38.8% of sheltered persons in families.  By comparison, 65.8% of persons in families in the general population are white, while white family members only occupied 28.6% of family shelter beds in 2010.

This stark overrepresentation of black families in homeless shelters could be seen – and was often much more extreme – in individual jurisdictions across the country.  For example, in New York City and St. Louis in 2009 twice as many black families were found in shelters (55.9% and 95%, respectively) compared to their share of the general city population (25.2% versus 49.5%). The opposite held true for white families who were vastly underrepresented in local shelters (1.9% and 3%, respectively), given the percentages of white families in New York City and St. Louis overall (36.1% versus 44.7%). The report shows breakdowns for 37 cities nationwide.

“Prejudice and access barriers experienced by black Americans lead to higher rates of poverty and unemployment, lower educational attainment, and ultimately homelessness,” said ICPH Principal Policy Analyst Matthew Adams.  “This report highlights how from coast to coast, these entrenched problems lead black families to be overrepresented in homeless shelters across the country.”

To download a copy of the report, visit the ICPH website.



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