High Burden of Homelessness Among Sexual-Minority Adolescents: Findings From a Representative Massachusetts High School Sample

Heather Corliss, Carol Goodenow, Lauren Nichols, and S. Bryn Austin

July 2011

In this study, researchers compared the prevalence of current homelessness among adolescents reporting a minority sexual orientation (lesbian/gay, bisexual, unsure, or heterosexual with same-sex sexual partners) with that among exclusively heterosexual adolescents.  The researchers combined data from the 2005 and 2007 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a representative sample of public school students in grades 9 through 12 (n = 6317).   Approximately 25% of lesbian/gay and 15% of bisexual Massachusetts public high school students were homeless, compared with only 3% of their heterosexual counterparts.  Sexual-minority males and females had odds of reporting current homelessness that was between 4 and 13 times that of their exclusively heterosexual peers.  Sexual-minority youths’ greater likelihood of being homeless was driven by their increased risk of living separately from their parents or guardians.  Researchers concluded that youth homelessness is linked with numerous threats such as violence, substance use, and mental health problems. Although discrimination and victimization related to minority sexual orientation status are believed to be important causal factors, additional research is needed to improve our understanding of risks factors and to determine effective strategies to prevent homelessness in this population.

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