Switching Social Contexts: The Effects of Housing Mobility and School Choice Programs on Youth Outcomes
Posted: 4 Jun 2010
Date Written: August 2009
Despite years of research, methodological and practical obstacles make it difficult to conclude whether policies aimed at improving schools and communities are effective for improving youth outcomes. To complement existing work, we assess research on the educational and social outcomes for comparable youth who change school and neighborhood settings through unique housing policy and school voucher programs. Research shows that housing programs have helped poor families move to much safer, less disadvantaged, and less segregated neighborhoods. Some housing programs have also provided early educational benefits for young people who relocated to less poor and less segregated neighborhoods, but these gains were not maintained in the long run. School voucher programs have helped disadvantaged youth attend higher-performing private schools in less segregated environments with more middle-class peers. Although some voucher programs have shown small positive effects, the results of others are less certain owing to methodological weaknesses. Future research should directly examine families’ selection processes and be cautious with quantitative research that uses naturally occurring variation to model the effects of potential social programs. Researchers should also recognize the family processes that interact with social policy to determine how youth development can be improved, alongside the structural and political processes that condition how programs work at a larger scale.
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