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So just how common is it for a child to run away, and what are some of the circumstances they depart under? What happens after they leave? The following facts and statistics on youth runaways will give you a better understanding of runaway teens, and for parents, give you a better perspective on your own situation.

Statistics on the number of children who run away

It’s hard to know precisely how many children run away from home, since many cases are never reported. But the following statistics should give you an idea about how common it is for youth to run away:

  1. Research by David Finkelhor, using government data, found that around 1.7 million youth either run away or are kicked out of their home each year, pretty evenly split between boys and girls. (Koch, 2008)

  1. A separate 2010 study by economist Michael Pergamit for the Urban Institute found that one in five children will run away at least once by age 18. (ibid)

  1. Other research has indicated anywhere from 1.6 to 2.8 million runaways/ throwaways in the United States, “but the truth is nobody knows for sure how many youth are without a place to call home.” (Pergamit et al., 2010)

Other facts & statistics about runaway youth

  1. More than 70% of runaway youth say leaving their home occurred on the spur of the moment, though many of them had thought about running away before or had anticipated being thrown out. (Pergamit et al., 2010)

  1. Some youth who leave spur of the moment leave with nothing more than the clothes on their back. While others pack a bag, 78% of all runaway youth leave home with $10 or less. (ibid)

  1. Callers to the runaway hotline have been trending younger and younger over recent years. The # of callers 14 and younger surged from 1,255 in 2000 to 1,844 in 2007, a 42% increase. (Irvine, 2008) Growth rates from very young callers (younger than 12) have been accelerating at a faster pace than other age groups, increasing 89% between 2000 and 2009. (Pergamit et al., 2010)

  1. Data from the National Runaway Switchboard shows the number of young callers experiencing crises that jeopardized their safety rose form 13,650 in 2000 to 15,857 in 2007, an increase of 16%. (Irvine, 2008) 6,884 crisis callers in 2007 claimed to have been abused or neglected, up from 3,860 in 2000 – a 78% increase.

  1. 56% of youth tell someone when they plan to run away. (Pergamit et al., 2010)

  1. A study by Michael Pergamit of 1,168 12-year-olds who were first interviewed in 1997 and then tracked as part of the Federally funded National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that half of the youth who ran away did so before age 14 and did so at least twice. He says this included slightly more girls than boys and far more white and black youths than Hispanics. (Koch, 2010)

  1. 73% of runaway youth were living with at least 1 biological parent at the time they ran away, and about one-quarter were living with both biological parents. The remaining 27% were living either in foster care or with other relatives. (Pergamit et al., 2010)

  1. Three times as many teen runaways cited economics as a factor in 2009 as did so in 2000, according to data from the National Runaway Switchboard. (ibid)

  1. Females are more likely than males to seek help through shelters or hotlines. (ibid)

  1. Upon returning home, most youth (48.5%) said things at home did not change. 22.1% said things got worse, and the rest said it was off and on. Only a small portion (8.8%) said conditions at home got better. (ibid)

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