Moving to Opportunity and Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects on Adult Economic Self-Sufficiency and Health from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment
58 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2004
Date Written: August 2004
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.
Keywords: neighborhood effects, social experiments, Economics - Microeconomics, Housing¸ Urban Development and Transportation, Welfare / Health Care/ Social Policy
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