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The Student Beans US Housing Insecurity Report

One fifth of US students have faced housing insecurity, finding themselves without a permanent place of residence while studying, according to our latest report.

Amidst rising inflation and housing concerns, Gen Z’s — especially students — are struggling with nowhere to turn to. 

With four million students facing housing insecurity at some point while in college, nine-in-ten Gen Z’s believe President Joe Biden should prioritize supporting the young Americans facing uncertainty about their accommodation.

As the average rent cost continues to soar, along with the competition to secure said housing, students can’t find the funds to support themselves. 

Already, most students are recipients of loans, scholarships, and grants. But with increasing living costs, for some these funds are barely covering the essentials. 

Student income breakdown

  • 37% receive money from a student loan (average $8180 per semester)
  • 47% are at college on a scholarship
  • 35% are a recipient of a Pell Grant

Housing insecurity makes students twice as likely to want to drop out of college

Naturally, the stresses of rising inflation and housing security are impacting young Americans negatively.

Over half (55%) of US college students have seen their finances negatively impact their life, with friendships and family ties facing the biggest toll:

  • Friendships – 38%
  • Relationships with family – 33%
  • Dating life – 28%
  • Sex life – 11%

Over a third (36%) of students admitted that they have thought about dropping out of college due to their financial situation. This number rises to 62% of those who have faced housing insecurity

Students facing housing insecurity five times more likely to turn to sex work

Alongside all their money worries, 46% of college students say they are not confident they know where to find support if they’re struggling financially. 

In order to get by financially, these young people are turning to worrying measures, like relying on credit cards and resorting to shoplifting. But for those who have faced housing insecurity, the likelihood of turning to these negative means skyrockets.

Students who have previously faced some kind of housing insecurity were found to be:

  • Twice as likely to rely on bank loans
  • More than twice as likely to resort to shoplifting
  • Five times more likely to get involved with sex work or set up an OnlyFans
  • Four times more likely to sell drugs
Those who have faced housing insecurity Those who have not faced housing insecurity
Used credit cards 43% 27%
Ran a small/side business 25% 16%
Taken out a loan (separate to student loan) 16% 7%
Relied on IOUs from generous friends 10% 4%
Resorted to shoplifting 7% 3%
Started an OnlyFans 5% 1%
Got involved with sex work 5% 1%
Selling drugs 2% 0.5%

16 million students are turning to shoplifting to get by

With students unable to stretch their loan, scholarships, and grants, to cover rising bills, they are being forced to turn to unconventional methods to secure additional income.

The majority are taking on the entrepreneurial route. 61% have taken on a job alongside their studies, while 18% have set up a small side hustle to generate some cash.

The generosity of others has also been a crutch for many of Generation Z. Over two thirds (68%) rely on financial support from family members, with almost a fifth of students admitting to receiving over $300 from family every month. 

Others are turning to debt, with 30% relying on credit cards to get by while 9% admit to taking out a bank loan on top of their student loan.

Most worryingly, some students are turning to illegal methods to make ends meet. 16 million (4%) have resorted to shoplifting and 4 million (1%) are selling drugs to get by.

Some young people are even turning to sex work, with 2% choosing to disclose they’ve started an OnlyFans.

Students in Florida most likely to face housing insecurity

With money worries mounting, it’s no surprise that a fifth of students have faced housing insecurity while at college, finding themselves with no place to live.

This statistic rises to 29% of students in Florida and 26% of those in Texas. Despite New York’s notorious reputation amongst the housing insecurity conversation, just 13% of students in this state admitted to facing the issue.

% of students in each area that have faced housing insecurity (top ten)

  • Florida – 29%
  • Texas – 26%
  • Georgia – 24%
  • California – 21%
  • Illinois – 20%
  • North Carolina – 17%
  • Pennsylvania – 14%
  • Ohio – 14%
  • Michigan – 13%
  • New York – 13%

800K students forced to couch-surf with friends 

For those who have faced housing insecurity, these students still need to find somewhere to rest their head. 

While studying at college, 12% admit they resorted to staying on a friend’s couch due to not being able to secure their own housing, and the majority (45%) chose to live at home with their parents.

A small percentage of students were likely unable to resort to friends and family for help, choosing to stay in hotels (5%) or Airbnb’s (4%) to secure a roof over their head.

Just as many (4%) said they had to live in the confines of their car, as they had nowhere to go. 

While a minute percentage, 1% of American college students (that is 200,000 students across the states), worryingly admitted that they have lived in a homeless shelter or on the street at some point during their studies.

Female students THREE times more likely to couch surf

Of those who have couch surfed in the past, Student Beans found the overwhelming majority were female. 

% of those who have couch-surfed that are female / male / non-binary Number of students in the US (based on 20M students)
Female 71% 14.2M
Male 24% 4.7M
Non-Binary 4% 802K

The narrative around couch-surfing is often seen as far too relaxed, despite the fact that those doing so due to housing insecurity, are in fact homeless.

Despite having no permanent place of residence, 52% of college students say they would not describe someone who couch surfs as homeless.

Students facing housing insecurity five times more likely to turn to sex work

Alongside all their money worries, 46% of college students say they are not confident they know where to find support if they’re struggling financially. 

In order to get by financially, these young people are turning to worrying measures, like relying on credit cards and resorting to shoplifting. But for those who have faced housing insecurity, the likelihood of turning to these negative means skyrockets.

Students who have previously faced some kind of housing insecurity were found to be:

  • Twice as likely to rely on bank loans
  • More than twice as likely to resort to shoplifting
  • Five times more likely to get involved with sex work or set up an OnlyFans
  • Four times more likely to sell drugs

Student Beans’ Chief Strategy Officer, Will Harris says: ‘It’s alarming to see as many as one in five students have faced housing insecurity during their studies. Our mission is to empower students to thrive, but we know that troubling housing worries like these are no doubt going to have catastrophic effects on a student’s success.

‘There is a serious lack of affordable housing for students, and we fear that this may become a barrier for those from disadvantaged backgrounds who are intimidated by the rising and increasingly competitive rental market.

‘We would love to see more being done to create more accessible housing for our students, ensuring they have access to appropriate accommodation and allowing them to focus their energies on excelling in their studies.’

Methodology: Student Beans surveyed 3,595 college students in September 2022

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