Why are black adults over-represented among individuals who have experienced lifetime homelessness? Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition analysis of homelessness among US male adults

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 the 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.

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BMJ Journals