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Strategies for obtaining probability samples of homeless youth

*Daniela Golinelli, RAND Corporation 
Joan Tuckaer, RAND Corporation 
Gery Ryan, RAND Corporation 
Suzanne Wenzel, School of Social Work, University of Southern California 

Keywords: Homeless youth, probability sample

Background: Few studies have attempted to obtain probability samples of homeless youth from a diverse group of settings. Methods: For a study on risky behaviors in homeless youth, we obtained a probability sample of 419 homeless youth from 15 shelters, 7 drop-in centers and 19 street sites across four regions of Los Angeles County. Results: We describe the adopted sampling methodology, as well as the fielding strategies. We also discuss how the study results would have differed if we had sampled the homeless youth from only a specific type of sites (e.g. only from shelters or only from street sites) or from only a narrower geographic area within Los Angeles County (e.g. only from Hollywood). Conclusions: Homeless youth that can be found in shelters differ considerably from youth that do not use shelters both in terms of demographic characteristics and rates of risky behaviors. Similarly, we found differences in the characteristics and behaviors of homeless youth across geographic regions. Our findings demonstrate how limiting the type of sites or geographic areas from which youth are sampled can considerably bias study results.

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