This study compares homeless families with a representative sample of low income family households in St. Louis city and county to determine how they differ on key demographic variables. The research addresses methodological problems in prior research by comparing the findings of this study's random sample to the findings of four previous comparison studies. Findings from this study's random comparison sample are presented. Homeless families are significantly younger, never married, female-headed families of color. Housed and homeless families are not significantly different in the number of children or in the educational level of the head of household but housed families are larger and have greater income. This suggests the presence of another adult earner in poor, housed families. Research implications include addressing sampling biases in comparative research through longitudinal studies. Policy and practice recommendations center on providing social and economic supports to homeless families to increase the number of supportive adults in the home.

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