«Mixed Messages on Mixed incoMes Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and ...»
In the next section, I provide a brief overview of the rationale for mobility in housing programs and a summary of key research findings from programs aimed at deconcentrating poverty and fostering mixed-income environments. I then provide a discussion of the methods and data. I follow with a brief overview of the county and the LHAs associated with the voucher holders in this study, the descriptive statistics, and other analyses (including multivariate models) aimed at answering the research questions. The final section presents the research and policy implications of this study’s findings.
Persistent Poverty and Policy: Mobility, Mixing Incomes, and Poverty Deconcentration For decades, scholars and policy researchers have argued that residential space and location affect individual outcomes and that social structure is replicated through space (see Bolt and Van Kempen, 2011; Jargowsky, 1997; and Lefebvre, 1991). Of particular interest to urban and housing researchers is the longstanding concern with the effects of geography on social outcomes, principally the relationship among spatial location, the persistence of poverty, and individuals’ health and welfare.
Scholarly contributions from Lewis (1966, 1959) concerning poverty in Mexican and Puerto Rican families sparked an early debate on intergenerational poverty. Lewis asserted that the responses of low-income people to their circumstances resulted in a subculture of poverty, which created seemingly insuperable barriers to exiting the impoverished lower class. Lewis influenced the poverty policy discussion in the 1960s, as evidenced by findings from a 1965 U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) report. The report, commonly known by the eponymous title, the Moynihan Report, was an analysis of poverty that focused on African-American families. The author of the report, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, asserted that cultural pathologies in low-income, African-American communities perpetuated a cycle of poverty (Gans, 2011; O’Connor, 2001).
The Moynihan Report was a DOL internal report and was not intended initially for widespread distribution. Aspects of the report became known publicly, however, and drew heavy criticism from social activists and others. This controversy essentially overwhelmed the totality of the report and rendered it ineffective as support for public policy change (Massey and Sampson, 2009;
The scholarly debate about poverty, especially intergenerational poverty, in the 1960s coincided with social turmoil, social action, and new social policies. For housing policy, a landmark event during this period was a class action lawsuit, Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority, filed in 1966.
The plaintiffs charged racial discrimination by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) based on the concentration of public housing projects in primarily African-American neighborhoods and the segregation of public housing tenants by race into neighborhoods of the same race. As one of the attorneys in the case wrote about this period, “The CHA is now a black system. Its tenants and applicants were mostly black, and its developments were practically all in black neighborhoods” (Polikoff, 2006: 48). Race was clearly the central issue in the Gautreaux case, but it was inseparable from poverty in this instance given the population of public housing residents. The Gautreaux case faced many legal challenges and was not resolved quickly, but ultimately the plaintiffs prevailed and the U.S. Supreme Court instructed the CHA to deconcentrate the African Americans served by its public housing. To accomplish this charge, the CHA was to build scattered-site public housing that would not concentrate these developments in African-American neighborhoods and would provide opportunities for African Americans in scattered-site public housing to live in majority-White neighborhoods. Ultimately, slow implementation by the CHA and the Court’s ruling concerning HUD’s responsibilities in the case resulted in an approach that used rental certificates and relocation counseling to move low-income, central-city, African-American households to predominantly White Chicago suburbs (Gill, 2012; Polikoff, 2006).
The Gautreaux program1 has been studied intensely by researchers. Findings from this research show that moves, on average, resulted in lower neighborhood poverty rates and that movers reported better residential conditions after moving (DeLuca et al., 2010; Popkin and Cunningham, 2002).
Rosenbaum (1995) found that movers to more affluent, majority-White neighborhoods were more likely to have jobs than the comparison group who moved to low-income, majority-AfricanAmerican neighborhoods within Chicago. In a more recent analysis of employment outcomes using supplementary data from official sources, however, Mendenhall, DeLuca, and Duncan (2006) found that certain characteristics of the neighborhood, not their urban or suburban location, affected these outcomes. Of particular interest to researchers were outcomes for children. Based on her qualitative study, Keels (2008: 242) wrote that Gautreaux participants “... spoke of the desire to improve all aspects of their children’s developing environments (neighborhood, housing, school, and peers).” Improved school quality was expected to be an institutional change that would produce better educational outcomes for Gautreaux children. Research reveals that Gautreaux parents noted the high standards of their children’s suburban schools and had a positive view of these The discussion in this article focuses on the original Gautreaux program, referred to as “Gautreaux One,” which was active into the late 1990s. “Gautreaux Two” was initiated in 2002, with race and income as explicit considerations for neighborhoods receiving participants (see Duncan and Zuberi, 2006).
schools’ academic quality (Keels, 2008; Rosenbaum, 1995). Initially, Gautreaux children had some adjustment issues at suburban schools, but over time, research shows that children of suburban movers had a lower high school dropout rate and a higher college-attendance rate than children of city movers (Rosenbaum, 1995).
The Gautreaux program and related research continued, as social observers resurrected the cultureof-poverty thesis in the 1980s. Arguments elucidating the structural barriers that low-income people faced countered aggressive arguments touting a middle-class model and calling for an end to social programs, including housing subsidies (O’Connor, 2001). William Julius Wilson, a distinguished sociologist, did not dismiss individual or structural arguments. In his book, The Truly Disadvantaged, Wilson (1987) argued that poverty, especially in the African-American ghettos in the United States, is the result of a complex set of historical, structural, economic, and situational factors. A few years later, he wrote that these factors “... cannot be reduced to the easy explanations of a ‘culture of poverty’ that have been advanced by those on the right, or of racism, posited by those on the left” (Wilson, 1992: 641).
These arguments concerning the causes of poverty were not merely academic, because the persistence of poverty was a social problem without an effective policy. This argument, however, seemed to get quieter as positive results emerged from the Gautreaux program. These results gave policy observers and policymakers a reason to be optimistic that poverty deconcentration could provide real opportunities to low-income people and break the cycle of poverty. Concerns persisted, however, that the Gautreaux program was not designed to make strong causal statements and, thus, results should be interpreted cautiously.2 In this context, MTO was conceived and began implementation in 1994.
MTO aimed to evaluate the effects of mobility from high- to low-poverty neighborhoods for lowincome households with housing assistance. Designed as an experiment, MTO consisted of three groups: an experimental treatment group, (high- to low-poverty neighborhood movers), a Section 8 (HCVP) treatment group, and a control group. Implemented in five cities around the country, it was designed as a long-term experiment with the goal of making causal claims. Although researchers have discussed MTO’s research limitations—including the varying contexts across sites, number of subjects, and proximate-neighborhoods issue—the experiment and its results remain some of the most valuable research contributions to low-income housing policy (Briggs, Popkin, and Goering, 2010; Sanbonmatsu et al., 2011).
Analyses of the MTO program produced a range of results about physical and mental health, social interaction, employment, wages, housing quality, neighborhood conditions, feelings of safety, school quality, and educational and other outcomes for children. The following is a select set of results from the final evaluation.3 First, the final results show that residential quality, as measured by the poverty rate, improved for the treatment groups as compared with the control group, but the magnitude of this effect lessened over time (Ludwig, 2012). Second, in the long term, MTO See DeLuca et al. (2010) for a discussion of the shortcomings of the research design used to assess the Gautreaux program.
A more detailed discussion of the MTO program and its results appears in a recent issue of Cityscape (volume 14, number 2) and in the HUD final report (Sanbonmatsu et al., 2011).
had no effect on employment. During the course of the program, employment rates varied for the groups and slightly over time. In fact, the experimental group had lower employment rates initially, possibly because the move caused an employment disruption, but other explanations are also likely. By the end of the experiment, however, no real differences in employment rates emerged among the groups (Sanbonmatsu et al., 2012). Third, analyses found that MTO resulted in minimal and mixed effects on school quality (Sanbonmatsu et al., 2011).
The Gautreaux and MTO programs focused on deconcentration, or neighborhood racial and income mixing. Federal policy also promotes mixed-income communities through the HOPE VI program, an initiative aimed at the redevelopment of public housing sites.4 HOPE VI is different than the neighborhood mobility programs in scale, intervention, and other characteristics. For this reason, HOPE VI research results are not directly comparable with results from the other programs. The HCVP operates at the neighborhood scale, similar in this respect to the Gautreaux and MTO programs, but it is different in that it relies on voucher holders to deconcentrate poverty through their choices without strong support from the program.5 Therefore, although results from other mobility programs inform HCVP research and practice, it is important to study the HCVP as implemented routinely by LHAs to gain an understanding of voucher holders’ decisions and outcomes concerning residential location.
Research on the HCVP is relatively limited given the size and importance of the program.6 Nonetheless, existing studies have provided some important results.7 For example, immigrants and minorities in the voucher program tend to live in more distressed neighborhoods than do nonimmigrants and nonminorities (Basolo and Nguyen, 2009; Pendall, 2000), but HCVP movers experience better neighborhood conditions, less minority-concentrated neighborhoods, and neighborhoods with lower poverty rates (Basolo and Nguyen, 2005; Climaco et al., 2008). Although these results are valuable, researchers have not examined the range of outcomes considered in the Gautreaux and MTO programs for voucher holders in the regular HCVP.
Methods and Data This research was designed to answer questions about housing voucher households and their decisions concerning residential choice. The study, therefore, required household- or individual-level data that included voucher holders’ addresses, residential preferences, socioeconomic characteristics, and other microlevel data. Whereas researchers can access summary LHA administrative data on voucher holders via the HUD website, microlevel address data are not publicly available on this See Kleit (2005) and Kleit and Manzo (2006) for research on public housing households’ decisions and outcomes related to HOPE VI.
Researchers have written about the HCVP’s and other mobility programs’ limitations to achieve policy goals, with suggestions for improving opportunities for the recipients of housing assistance (see Briggs and Turner, 2006; McClure, 2010).
HUD’s 2009 “A Picture of Subsidized Households” reported 2,233,628 units in the program nationwide. See http://www.
See Varady (2010) for a review of the recent literature on mobility programs, including research on the HCVP.
site.8 Schultheis, Russ, and Lucey (2012) observed that the lack of easily accessible location data for voucher households has been problematic for researchers concerned with voucher holders’ spatial outcomes. These researchers noted that LHA’s administrative data include location information that may be available to researchers who partner with an LHA and provide certain assurances concerning confidentiality. For this study, I took a collaborative approach, partnering with two LHAs in Orange County, California, to select a representative sample of voucher holders from each LHA’s population and to acquire specific administrative data, including addresses of the voucher holders in the samples.
These administrative data were necessary for the research, but they were inadequate to analyze the full range of questions associated with the study. For this reason, the research was designed to collect additional, detailed microlevel data via a mail sample survey of voucher holders. The two LHA partners were the Santa Ana Housing Authority (SAHA) and the Orange County Housing Authority (OCHA). For the SAHA, the survey sample (n = 830) consisted of approximately 32 percent of the population (with oversampling for movers) and, for the OCHA, the survey sample (n = 2,010) was about 25 percent of the population of voucher holders (with oversampling for families).