Understanding Homelessness in Rural America

In rural school districts, student homelessness is growing at nearly 4 times the national rate, up 11% since the 2013-14 school year.

Rising student homelessness is a nationwide crisis, reaching an estimated 1.3 million children in American public schools last year. Policy responses and government resources for homelessness concentrate almost exclusively on cities, suburbs, and towns. This focus stands to overlook the unique resource and funding needs of rural communities, where—new ICPH research shows—student homelessness is growing most rapidly.

Examining data from the U.S. Department of Education, ICPH sought to better understand the scope of rural student homelessness and what its rapid growth means for rural communities around the country. ICPH found an 11% increase in rural student homelessness over just the last four school years, nearly quadruple the 3% national growth rate.

A state-level analysis, detailed in the reports and infographics below, finds that this trend is wide-reaching: rural student homelessness increased in 38 states, and 15 states saw the number of rural homeless students grow even as total rural student enrollment declined. Data also shows that only 42% of rural homeless students attend school in a district with federally allocated funding to support homeless students, compared to 67% of their non-rural peers.

Identifying this trend is only a first step in understanding rural student homelessness. Only by placing more attention on the local dynamics of homelessness can we effectively target solutions to address it. Share your own experiences with student homelessness in rural communities, check back for future updates, and work with ICPH to bring rural homelessness into focus.

Our Research: 

Report: Student Homelessness in Rural America


Examining growth, state-level trends, and funding
Read more.

Infographic: Homelessness Growing Fastest in Rural America


Highlighting where and how rural homelessness is growing Read more.

Infographic: Rural Students Not Receiving Fair Share of Funding


Breaking down McKinney-Vento funding for rural students Read more.

Commentary: Identifying a Crisis


How Montana transformed its approach to rural student homelessness Read more.

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