Quality & Quantity 36: 291–303, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Estimating the Size of the Homeless Population in
and TOM A. B. SNIJDERS
Research Institute for Sociology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary;
University of Groningen, The Netherlands
Abstract. In this study we try to estimate the size of the homeless population in Budapest by using
two – non-standard – sampling methods: snowball sampling and capture-recapture method. Using
two methods and three different data sets we are able to compare the methods as well as the results,
and we also suggest some further applications. Apart from the practical purpose of our study there
is a methodological one as well: to use two relatively unknown methods for the estimations of this
very peculiar kind of population.
Key words: snowball sampling, capture-recapture, hidden population, homeless
In Hungary since 1990, with the economical and structural changes the inequal-
ities among the different social classes have undoubtedly been increasing. The
drastically reduced number of working places, the decreasing number of new and
cheap apartments (or other accommodations) built by the state, the closing down
of several workers’ hostels and the changing of the social beneﬁt system all led to
a growing number of poor. An increasing number of these poor people, after losing
their jobs, homes, and families become in one way or another socially isolated, and
sooner or later end up living in the streets and become homeless.
Before the transition the existence of a special homeless population – mainly
young people running away from home (Utasi, 1987) – was acknowledged. In
1989 what took most people – social politicians, social workers, scientists and the
general public – by surprise was the unexpectedly high number of homeless people
emerging out of nowhere. As soon as this phenomenon came to light, the various
suggestions as to how to solve this problem (providing shelters, hostels, soup kit-
chens etc.) were always preceded by the same question: “What is the number of
The research was supported by Research Support Scheme, no.: 1135/1998 and by an OTKA
grant no. F 020534.
Corresponding author: Bea D
avid, MTA Szociol
ezet, Hungary – 1014 Budapest, Uri
utca 49. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org