Design Options for Estimating the Incidence and Prevalence of Homeless and Runaway Youth, 2002-2003

The Design Options for Estimating the Incidence and Prevalence of Homeless and Runaway Youth study developed a plan of options for estimating the incidence and prevalence of runaway, throwaway, and homeless experiences among youth, a plan for regularly monitoring trends of youth homelessness periods, and cost estimates. This activity fulfilled a Congressional mandate under the Labor-HHS Appropriations legislation.

The major research questions addressed included: (1) What strategies can be employed to estimate the incidence and prevalence of homelessness among adolescent youth? (2) What are the definitional issues that need to be taken into account? (3) What would be effective strategies to determine the frequency, duration, and other details of each type of experience (e.g., cause, place of temporary residence, services needed and services accessed)? (4) To what extent is it feasible to measure key risk factors in the context of estimating incidence and prevalence? (5) What strategies may be employed to determine variances in the prevalence of homelessness for youth by gender, race, family socioeconomic status, family structure, or residence in an urban, suburban, or rural area? (6) What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of the potential sampling methods? (7) What statistical techniques can be adopted to compensate for weaknesses inherent in the different survey methodologies? (8) What existing surveys could be used as a basis for additional work to investigate the incidence and prevalence of homeless youth? (9) What would be the relative strengths and weakness of surveys of households, juvenile facilities, returned runaways, police records, or social welfare professionals specializing in adolescents? (10) How extensive in scope and intensive in time and effort would various approaches be? (11) Have there been any reliable efforts in the past that could be replicated? What were the results of these previous efforts?

The study produced a literature review on homeless and runaway youth.

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