Academic Achievement Trajectories of Homeless and Highly Mobile Students: Resilience in the Context of Chronic and Acute Risk


  • This research was supported in part by predoctoral fellowships awarded to Dr. Cutuli from the Center for Neurobehavioral Development (CNBD) at the University of Minnesota and from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; 5T323MH015755), and by the Fesler-Lampert Chair and grants to Dr. Masten from the National Science Foundation (NSF; 0745643) and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Christopher David Desjardins' work was supported by a fellowship from the Interdisciplinary Education Sciences Training Program (IES Award R305C050059; University of Minnesota PRF 473473). Any opinions, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CNBD, NIMH, NSF, or IES.
  • We would like to thank the staff of the Minneapolis Public Schools, and particularly Margo Hurrle for sharing her invaluable perspective and dedication to the needs of HHM children.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to J. J. Cutuli, School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, 3701 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104. Electronic mail may be sent to


Analyses examined academic achievement data across third through eighth grades (= 26,474), comparing students identified as homeless or highly mobile (HHM) with other students in the federal free meal program (FM), reduced price meals (RM), or neither (General). Achievement was lower as a function of rising risk status (General > RM > FM > HHM). Achievement gaps appeared stable or widened between HHM students and lower risk groups. Math and reading achievement were lower, and growth in math was slower in years of HHM identification, suggesting acute consequences of residential instability. Nonetheless, 45% of HHM students scored within or above the average range, suggesting academic resilience. Results underscore the need for research on risk and resilience processes among HHM students to address achievement disparities.