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Disaggregate: Individuals experiencing homelessness


Any individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence

Why it matters

Individuals experiencing homelessness or housing instability face a host of unique challenges, including unsafe shelter and limited or inconsistent access to food, transportation, health care, and technology. The instability caused by intermittent or chronic homelessness can make it difficult for students to attend and succeed in school, and for job seekers to secure and retain employment. More than 1.3 million students in public elementary and secondary schools are estimated to experience homelessness. Students experiencing homelessness are significantly less likely to graduate high school than housed students, with graduation rates below 60 percent in some states, compared to the national adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) of 86 percent. K–12 schools are required to disaggregate data by homelessness status under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

What to know about measurement

Federally funded pre-K programs and K–12 schools, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and Department of Labor programs collect data on whether individuals are experiencing homelessness, broadly defined as lacking a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” However, this definition is not detailed further in federal law, and the resulting data may fail to capture the true extent of this issue. For example, students who live with extended family members for temporary housing may be undercounted. Although the FAFSA asks about homelessness, postsecondary institutions should consider collecting this information via application and registration materials, as students without access to a permanent home may have more difficulty completing the FAFSA. Finally, we note that it is possible to experience housing instability or insecurity without experiencing homelessness. Though there are several definitions of housing instability or insecurity, work is underway in the field to develop unified measures.

Source frameworks

This disaggregate appeared in four source frameworks reviewed for this report: the Urban Institute Robust and Equitable Measures to Identify Quality Schools (REMIQS) framework,1362 the Dimensions of Equity Framework, the California Cradle-to-Career Data System, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting requirements.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

This website was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.