Evaluating Contradictory Experimental and Non-Experimental Estimates of Neighborhood Effects on Economic Outcomes for Adults

97 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2021 Last revised: 7 Oct 2021

See all articles by David J. Harding

David J. Harding

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Population Studies Center

Lisa Sanbonmatsu

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Greg Duncan

University of California, Irvine

Lisa Gennetian

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Lawrence F. Katz

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

Ronald C. Kessler

Harvard Medical School

Jeffrey R. Kling

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

Matt Sciandra

Independent

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2021

Abstract

Although non-experimental studies find robust neighborhood effects on adults, such findings have been challenged by results from the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) residential mobility experiment. Using a within-study comparison design, this paper compares experimental and non-experimental estimates from MTO and a parallel analysis of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Striking similarities were found between non-experimental estimates based on MTO and PSID. No clear evidence was found that different estimates are related to duration of adult exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods, non-linear effects of neighborhood conditions, magnitude of the change in neighborhood context, frequency of moves, treatment effect heterogeneity, or measurement, although uncertainty bands around our estimates were sometimes large. One other possibility is that MTO-induced moves might have been unusually disruptive, but results are inconsistent for that hypothesis. Taken together, the findings suggest that selection bias might account for evidence of neighborhood effects on adult economic outcomes in non-experimental studies.

Suggested Citation

Harding, David James and Sanbonmatsu, Lisa and Duncan, Greg and Gennetian, Lisa and Katz, Lawrence F. and Kessler, Ronald C. and Kling, Jeffrey and Sciandra, Matt and Ludwig, Jens, Evaluating Contradictory Experimental and Non-Experimental Estimates of Neighborhood Effects on Economic Outcomes for Adults (February 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3785788

David James Harding (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Population Studies Center ( email )

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Lisa Sanbonmatsu

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Greg Duncan

University of California, Irvine ( email )

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Lisa Gennetian

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Lawrence F. Katz

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Ronald C. Kessler

Harvard Medical School ( email )

Health Care Policy
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Jeffrey Kling

Government of the United States of America - Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Matt Sciandra

Independent ( email )

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI) ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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