One in eight New York City elementary school students experiences homelessness before fifth grade, according to a new study out of New York University.
The Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development looked at student homelessness across the five boroughs in a new report out Wednesday.
The study follows the 81,669 New York City public school students who began kindergarten in the fall of 2012 for five years, giving unique insight into the trajectory of these students’ lives.
“One thing that is a little different about this work is that we were able to follow students over multiple years,” Zitsi Mirakhur, one of the study authors, said in a statement. “This paints a more complete picture of who experiences homelessness — and in what ways.”
That picture shows that black and Latino students at New York City schools are more likely to experience homelessness, which often disrupts their education and connections with peers.
Of that initial group that began kindergarten in 2012, 10,312 students, or more than 12 percent, experienced homelessness at some point before their fifth grade year, per the report.
Black students accounted for nearly 33 percent of all students who experienced homelessness, and Latino students made up just over 56 percent, though the two demographics are about 25 percent and 41 percent of all kids in the study, respectively.
White students accounted for 3.5 percent of all homeless students and 16 percent of the full cohort of kids, and 6.3 percent of all students who experienced homelessness were Asian, with that demographic accounting for 15.8 percent of the full cohort.
There’s not much data on how these families become homelessness, but the researchers interviewed educators at New York City schools who cited high rents, domestic violence and issues with mental health or substance abuse as some reasons why.
Homelessness in New York City schools: who is affected?
The study looked at different types of homelessness, from length of time to living situation, meaning whether the students were doubled up with family or friends or staying in shelters.
Nearly 70 percent of the New York City school students who experienced homelessness did so for more than one year. More than a quarter were homeless for all five years of the study.
More than half, at about 58 percent, of these homeless students were staying with friends or family due, per the report, while most of the others spent all or some of their time in shelters.
Students in shelters were “particularly vulnerable” the report notes, as they were more likely to change schools, experience chronic absences and have the lowest test scores.
“It is striking that 95 percent of students who were in a shelter for an extended period of time — for three years or more — were black or Latino,” said Kathryn Hill, co-author of the brief, in a statement. “This finding underscores the disproportionate impact of extreme poverty on NYC’s black and Latino students.”
The areas that saw the most students experiencing homelessness were concentrated in upper Manhattan, central and western Bronx and northern Brooklyn.
A map showing the 10 community school districts where the highest proportion of homeless students began kindergarten.