How can I identify homelessness in the March CPS?

I am looking for the number of homeless along with any other information I can get on homelessness in the US. Christopher Jencks in “The Homeless” cites March CPS for his homeless numbers for 1979, 1984 and 1989.


To my knowledge, there is no way to directly measure homelessness with the Current Population Survey. This is primarily due to the Sample Design employed by the CPS. Firstly, the CPS samples housing units, which means that the population being surveyed are necessarily housed. Furthermore, the CPS only includes the non-institutionalized population, so group living structures such as shelters would not be in the sample universe.

In 1989 Peter Rossi produced homelessness estimates based on the March CPS (briefly discussed in this more recent article), but those were more so estimates of risk of homelessness. It appears that Christopher Jencks used the March CPS in a similar way. In table 6 of The Homeless, Jencks cites the CPS, but also states that for the table “Homeless population estimated from table 2.” So the CPS data was used to descriptive estimates rather than estimates of the homeless population size.

I hope this helps.