All statistics listed on this page come from peer-reviewed journals and federal studies.
Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year. 1 2
Youth aged 12-17 are at higher risk for homelessness than adults. 3 4
47% of runaway / homeless youth indicated that conflict between them and their parent or guardian was a major problem. 5 *
Over 50% of youth in shelters and on the streets reported that their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving but did not care. 6
80% of runaway and homeless girls reported having ever been sexually or physically abused. 34% of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported sexual abuse before leaving home and forty-three percent of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported physical abuse before leaving home. 7
Childhood abuse increases youths' risk for later victimization on the street. Physical abuse is associated with elevated risk of assaults for runaway and homeless youth, while sexual abuse is associated with higher risk of rape for runaway and homeless youth. 7
Over 70% of runaway and throwaway youth in 2002 were estimated to be endangered, based on 17 indicators of harm or potential risk. The most common endangerment component was physical or sexual abuse at home or fear of abuse upon return. The second most common endangerment component was the youth’s substance dependency. 1
12% of runaway and homeless youth spent at least one night outside, in a park, on the street, under a bridge or overhang, or on a rooftop. 5 *
7% of youth in runaway and homeless youth shelters and 14% of youth on the street had traded sex for money, food, shelter, or drugs in the last twelve months when surveyed in 1995. 6
32% of runaway and homeless youth have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. 5 *
Approximately 48.2% of youth living on the street and 33.2% of youth living in a shelter reported having ever been pregnant. 8
50% of homeless youth age 16 or older reported having dropped out of school, having been expelled, or having been suspended. 9
Runaway youth are 50% male and 50% female, although females are more likely to seek help through shelters and hotlines. 1
40% of youth in shelters and on the street have come from families that received public assistance or lived in publicly assisted housing. 6
* As indicated to shelter staff at a federally funded runaway or homeless shelter
Nine percent of runaway youth in a non-random sample of over 1,600 youth reported engaging in survival sex at some point in their lives.10
Approximately 10% of shelter youths and 28% of street youths report having participated in survival sex. Survival sex includes the exchange of sex for shelter, food, drugs, or other subsistence needs.11
1. Hammer, H., Finkelhor, D., & Sedlak, A. (2002). Runaway / Thrownaway Children: National Estimates and Characteristics. National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
2. Greene, J. (1995). Youth with Runaway, Throwaway, and Homeless Experiences: Prevalence, Drug Use, and Other At-Risk Behaviors. Research Triangle Institute. HHS. ACF - ACYF.
3. Link, B., Susser, E., Stueve, A., Phelan, J., Moore, R., Struening, E. (1994). Lifetime and Five-year Prevalence of Homelessness in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 84, No. 12. pp 1907-1912.
4. Ringwalt, C., Greene, J., Robertson, M., & McPheeters, M. (1998). The Prevalence of Homelessness Among Adolescents in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 88, Iss. 9
5. Westat, Inc. 1997. National Evaluation of Runaway and Homeless Youth. Washinton, DC: US Dep't of HHS, Admin on Children, Youth and Families.
6. Greene, J. (1995). Youth with Runaway, Throwaway, and Homeless Experiences: Prevalence, Drug Use, and Other At-Risk Behaviors Research Triangle Institute. HHS. ACF - ACYF.
7. Molnar, B., Shade, S., Kral, A., Booth, R., & Watters, J. (1998). Suicidal Behavior and Sexual / Physical Abuse Among Street Youth. Child Abuse & Neglect. Vol. 22, NO. 3, pp. 213-222.
8. Greene, J., & Ringwalt, C. (1998). Pregnancy Among Three National Samples of Runaway and Homeless Youth. Journal of Adolescent Health. 23; 6; pp. 370-377.
9. Homeless and Runaway Youth Receiving Services at federally Funded shelters. United States General Accounting Office. GAO/HRD-90-45
10. Walls, E., & Bell, S. (2011). Correlates of Engaging in Survival Sex among Homeless Youth and Young Adults. Journal of Sex Research, 48(5), 423–436.
11. Greene, J., Ennett, S., & Ringwalt, C. (1999). Prevalence and Correlates of Survival Sex Among Runaway and Homeless Youth. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 89, No. 9.