New Data on Race, Ethnicity and Homelessness

The Alliance recently released a new Demographic Data Project brief: Race, Ethnicity, and HomelessnessThe third installment of the series continues to use Continuum of Care (CoC)- and state-level Point-in-Time data to deepen the nation’s understanding of homelessness.  As with other issues in our society, significant disparities are found along racial and ethnic lines.  And the door to new research questions opens wider.


The first part of the Alliance’s analysis focuses on the population of people experiencing homelessness—what percent of them belong to each racial and ethnic group.  According to national-level data, the numbers of Black Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics counted in 2018 are high given the size of these groups in the general population.

Black Americans in particular are consistently overrepresented in jurisdictions across the country.  In such places, the percentage of Black people experiencing homelessness is higher than the percentage of Black people in the population.  Overrepresentation was found in every state and 98 percent of CoCs.  This stands in stark contrast to the story of White Americans, who areunderrepresented in every state and 93 percent of CoCs.

Rates of Homelessness

Within the brief, rates are calculated for each group, revealing the likelihood of group members experiencing homelessness. 

According to national-level data, Black Americans are the people most likely to be homeless—54 out of every 10,000 Black people.  Group rates are even higher in states like New York (208 per 10,000 people) and CoCs like San Francisco (591 per 10,000 people).  Within jurisdictions, the group tends to have the highest rates of homelessness.

Twenty out of every 10,000 Hispanics/Latinxs are homeless nationally.  And, although data limitations prevent a full analysis of Native Americans, there are reasons to believe their rates are also high.  A recent Urban Institute/HUD analysis finds significant indicators of homelessness and large numbers of people doubling up in tribal areas and other places where Native Americans live.

White Americans have relatively lower rates of homelessness (11 per 10,000 people nationwide).  And Asian Americans have the lowest rates (4 per 10,000 people nationwide).


Finally, we look at group differences related to unsheltered homelessness.  Native Americans stand out.  The group is the one most likely to be unsheltered with 50 percent sleeping on streets and other locations not meant for human habitation. 

Otherwise, typical patterns of inequality do not seem to apply.   Black Americans are the group most likely to be sheltered.  And unsheltered rates between non-Hispanics/Latinxs and Hispanics/Latinxs are practically equal.  White and Asian American unsheltered numbers are relatively high, raising questions about why. 

Moving Forward

This new data opens the door to still other research questions.   Why are some patterns so consistent across geographic regions?  Why are certain state and CoCs outliers in group representations and rates?  Pursuing the questions that come from new information could provide keys necessary for reducing disparities and ending homelessness.


To learn more about the Alliance’s Demographic Data Project findings, click here