Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Research, Practice, and Advocacy Tools

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was first developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1990 to assess the health risk behaviors of youth and adults in the United States. Since 2017, the YRBS optional question list has included two questions pertaining to homelessness. Researchers, educators, and advocates have used the data from these questions to guide their work, expose severely disproportionate health risks of high school students experiencing homelessness, and advocate for better policies and practices. This webpage seeks to compile YRBS research, practice and advocacy tools in one place, to provide convenient access to those who wish to understand what the YRBS reveals about students experiencing homelessness, and how to use this information in their own work. If you have tools to add to this webpage, please contact Patricia Julianelle. We will update this page as we learn of new information to share.

Recent News

New Nationwide Data on Youth Homelessness is on the Way: Questions on Homelessness to be added to CDC’s 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Standard Questionnaire

SchoolHouse Connection is very pleased to announce that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will include a question on homelessness in its 2021 standard high school questionnaire for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). This will make the YRBS the largest source of data on the extent of homelessness among high school students and the serious health risk factors youth experiencing homelessness face. We are very grateful to our partners at the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health for their collaboration in making homelessness questions part of the optional questionnaire in 2017 and 2019, and now in the transition to the standard questionnaire for 2021. 

SchoolHouse Connection Research

Risk and Resilience: Differences in Risk Factors and Health Outcomes Between Homeless and Non-Homeless Students in 2017 YRBS Data

  • Broadly, our findings demonstrate that young people experience homelessness at an even higher rate than currently measured by the United States Department of Education. The YRBS indicates that 4.9% of students surveyed in the 17 states experienced homelessness at some point during the 2016-2017 school year, while public schools reported only 2.57% of their students as experiencing homelessness. The significant under-identification indicated by the YRBS means as many as one million students experiencing homelessness are not receiving the services that are their right under federal law.

Other Research

Student Homelessness: Lessons from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)

  • The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was first developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1990 to assess the health risk behaviors of youth and adults in the United States. For the first time since the survey has been widely administered, the 2017 YRBS optional question list included two questions pertaining to homelessness. SchoolHouse Connection analyzed demographic and risk factor data from the YRBS in 17 states[i], comparing high school students experiencing homelessness and those not experiencing homelessness. This series shares the striking and heartbreaking results of that analysis, with tangible action steps schools can take to promote safety and health for students experiencing homelessness.
    • Part I: Prevalence, Identification, and Action Steps for Schools
    • Part II: Racial and Ethnic Equity: Disproportionality and Action Steps for Schools
    • Part III: Sexual Orientation Equity: Disproportionality and Action Steps for Schools
    • Part IV: Vulnerability of Different Homeless Situations
    • Part V: Missing School Due to Safety Concerns
    • Part VI: Suicide
    • Part VII: Bullying
    • Part VIII: Dating Violence
    • Part IX: Rape and Sexual Assault

Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness: What the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Teaches Us About Health Risks, and How Professionals Can Mitigate Them

  • Join two SchoolHouse Connection Young Leaders to talk about specific strategies for social workers, family and youth service providers, high schools, colleges, and universities to support students experiencing homelessness. The webinar will share information from SHC’s analysis of Youth Risk Behavior Survey data, showing the prevalence of homelessness among high school students; racial and ethnic disparities; and health risks such as substance abuse, suicide, and physical and sexual violence. Then, two young people who have experienced homelessness will talk about how social workers, service providers, educators and others can help prevent and mitigate those health risk
    Watch the recorded webinar
    Download the Powerpoint

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