Explaining the puzzle of homeless mobilization: An examination of differential participation

Catherine Corrigall-Brown, David A. Snow, Kelly Smith, Theron Quist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


In this article, the authors examine participation in protests about homelessness by an unlikely set of participants - the homeless themselves. Through an analysis of data derived from 400 structured interviews with homeless individuals in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Tucson, the authors examine why and to what extent some homeless individuals, and not others, participate in movement-sponsored protest activities. In addition, the authors assess the degree to which the factors that affect participation in this population align with previous research on participation in social movements generally. They find that certain characteristics of the homeless population reduce the importance of social ties with other homeless individuals in the recruitment process and that, contrary to what much past work would lead one to expect, homeless individuals who are less biographically available are more likely to engage in protest activity. In addition, strain, which is often not a significant predictor of engagement in other populations, is an important predictor of differential participation among the homeless. This study highlights features of the homeless population that yield somewhat different correlates of participation than found in most movement participation studies and, in turn, cautions against presuming an overall model of participation that explains the engagement of all groups in the same way.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-335
Number of pages27
JournalSociological Perspectives
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Homelessness
  • Participation
  • Protest
  • Social movement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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