Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Why are black adults over-represented among individuals who have experienced lifetime homelessness? Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition analysis of homelessness among US male adults
  1. Taeho Greg Rhee1,2,
  2. Robert A Rosenheck2
  1. 1 Public Health Sciences, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, Connecticut, USA
  2. 2 Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  1. Correspondence to Greg Rhee, Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Ave, Farmington, 06530, USA;tgrhee.research{at}


Background Non-Hispanic black adults experience homelessness at higher rates than non-Hispanic white adults in many studies. We aim to identify factors that could account for this disparity.

Methods We used national survey data on non-Hispanic black and white men with complete data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions Wave III. Using the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition analysis, we examined race-based disparities in correlates of risk for lifetime homelessness.

Results In our analysis, 905 of 11 708 (7.7%) respondents, representing 6 million adults nationwide, reported lifetime homelessness. Black adults were 1.41 times more likely to have been homeless than white adults (95% CI 1.14 to 1.73; p=0.002). Overall, 81.6% of race-based inequality in lifetime homelessness were explained by three main variables with black adults having: lower incomes, greater incarceration histories since age of 18 and a greater risk of traumatic events (p<0.01 for each). They also had more antisocial personality disorder, younger age and parental drug use (p<0.05 for each).

Conclusion Although previous studies suggested that black homeless men have higher rates of drug abuse than white homeless men, our findings highlight the fact that black–white disparities in lifetime homeless risk are associated with socio-structural factors (eg, income and incarceration) and individual adverse events (eg, traumatic events), and not associated with psychiatric or substance use disorders.

  • Homelessness
  • health inequalities
  • mental health
  • psychosocial factors

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors Study concept and design: GR and RAR; Data acquisition and statistical analyses: GR; Interpretation of data: GR and RAR; Drafting of manuscript: GR and RAR; Critical revision of manuscript for important intellectual content: GR and RAR.

  • Funding In the past 3 years, Rhee was supported in part by the National Institute on Aging (#T32AG019134). The funding agency had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; preparation, review or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

  • Competing interests Each author completed and submitted the ICMJE form for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available.