Risk and Resilience Factors Associated with Formal and Informal Income Generation among Homeless Young Adults in Three U.S. Cities.

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Graduate School of Social Work


Homeless young adults, Employment, Income generation, Survival behavior, Structural equation model, Risk factor, Resilience


This study used the risk and resilience framework to examine predictors of formal and informal sources of income among homeless young adults. Formal sources of income generation consisted of full-time, part-time, or paid, temporary work. Informal sources included earning money from selling personal possessions, selling drugs, and theft. In all, 601 homeless young adults from three U.S. cities participated in semi-structured interviews. Structural equation modeling assessed whether demographic, homelessness history, mental health, problem behaviors, and resilience predicted income generation source. Income generation from formal sources was associated with being male, having a greater number of problem behaviors, and reporting higher levels of resilience. Informal income generation was associated with younger age, being transient, and reporting a greater number of problem behaviors. Findings underscore the need to address homelessness risk factors to support homeless young adults in securing stable, formal employment as an alternative to informal survival behaviors to earn income.

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