A number of national surveys are regularly conducted to address a myriad of information needs. These surveys are generally sponsored, if not actually conducted, by the Federal Government, from the basic census task of describing how many people live in the country in order to apportion congressional seats and Federal spending, to more focused efforts designed to provide both private and public officials with timely, reliable, and accessible information on such topics as labor force participation and income, housing, and health and nutrition.7 In general, these survey efforts can be divided into three broad types:
- Ongoing cross-sectional studies;
- Short-term longitudinal studies; and
- Long-term longitudinal studies.
Each of these survey types provides a different set of opportunities and challenges with respect to the information it can already provide on families that are at risk and/or have experienced homelessness, as well as for its potential to be enhanced to provide such information.