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Moving to Opportunity and Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects on Adult Economic Self-Sufficiency and Health from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment


Jeffrey R. Kling


Government of the United States of America - Congressional Budget Office (CBO); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jeffrey B. Liebman


Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Lawrence F. Katz


Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Lisa Sanbonmatsu


National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

August 2004

KSG Working Paper No. RWP04-035

Abstract:     
We study adult economic and health outcomes in the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration, a randomized housing mobility experiment in which families living in high-poverty U.S. public housing projects in five cities were given vouchers to help them move to private housing units in lower-poverty neighborhoods. An experimental group was offered vouchers valid only in a low-poverty neighborhood; a Section 8 group was offered traditional housing vouchers without geographic restriction; a control group was not offered vouchers. Our sample consists largely of black and Hispanic female household heads with children. Five years after random assignment, the families offered housing vouchers through MTO lived in safer neighborhoods that had significantly lower poverty rates than those of the control group not offered vouchers. We find no significant overall effects on adult employment, earnings, or public assistance receipt - though our sample sizes are not sufficiently large to rule out moderate effects in either direction. In contrast, we do find significant mental health benefits of the MTO intervention for the experimental group. We also demonstrate a more general pattern for the mental health results using both voucher groups of systematically larger effect sizes for groups experiencing larger changes in neighborhood poverty rates. In our analysis of physical health outcomes, we find a significant reduction in obesity for the experimental group, but no significant effects on four other aspects of physical health (general health, asthma, physical limitations, and hypertension) or on our summary measure of physical health.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 58

Keywords: neighborhood effects, social experiments, Economics - Microeconomics, Housing¸ Urban Development and Transportation, Welfare / Health Care/ Social Policy

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Date posted: September 10, 2004  

Suggested Citation

Kling, Jeffrey R. and Liebman, Jeffrey B. and Katz, Lawrence F. and Sanbonmatsu, Lisa, Moving to Opportunity and Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects on Adult Economic Self-Sufficiency and Health from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment (August 2004). KSG Working Paper No. RWP04-035. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=588942 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.588942

Contact Information

Jeffrey Kling
Government of the United States of America - Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ( email )
Ford House Office Building
2nd & D Streets, SW
Washington, DC 20515-6925
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Jeffrey B. Liebman (Contact Author)
Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-8518 (Phone)
617-496-9053 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.jeffreyliebman.com
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Lawrence F. Katz
Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )
Littauer Center
Room 215
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-5148 (Phone)
617-868-2742 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/katz/katz
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Lisa Sanbonmatsu
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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