«Mixed Messages on Mixed incoMes Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and ...»
they will choose higher quality neighborhood environments. Because, as Basolo and as Skobba and Goetz point out, relocatees are not moving to higher quality neighborhood contexts, this assumption must be re-examined. Skobba and Goetz suggest that low-income households are driven by more “proximate concerns” such as affordability, control over their local environment, and existing social ties and supports. Oakley, Ruel, and Reid suggest that more remains to be understood about how low-income households perceive and navigate a structurally unequal racialized real estate market.
Improving Intervention Design Beyond ideological critiques, the articles offer up specific design changes that might improve results.
Two overarching improvements would be to sharpen the connection between theory and evidence and to develop more specific goals that can be more carefully measured and assessed. Fraser, Chaskin, and Bazuin critique the lack of a “coherent intervention model built from a clear theory of change,” and Kearns et al. point out the vague policy goals generated from a policy orthodoxy without supporting evidence. Fraser, Chaskin, and Bazuin; Levy, McDade, and Bertumen; and Kearns et al.
generate lists of design changes to mixed-income development that include more socially conducive design of units and public spaces; more onsite maintenance; more attention to property management; governance and community building; and focused, more holistic, efforts to address individual education, employment, and health needs. Regarding relocation policies, Basolo and Skobba and Goetz recommend stronger relocation counseling that is more attuned to individual interests and needs and generates a broader choice set that offers more social and economic opportunity and respects and accommodates social ties and supports.
Implications for Better Antipoverty Policy and Practice Although it covers a broad scope, this symposium leaves several important questions unanswered.
Beyond tweaking the design of these programs as currently implemented, what fundamental enhancements and course corrections might be made to poverty deconcentration policy? As I read the articles in this symposium, I reflected on how the findings summarized and presented would be fodder for some of the sharpest critics of poverty deconcentration and mixed-income policy, such as David Imbroscio, Mary Pattillo, and Larry Vale, whose perspectives were not directly included in this symposium (Imbroscio, 2012, 2008; Pattillo, 2008; Vale, 2013, 2006, 1996). These scholars share a concern that current urban policy is too focused on integrating poor people into mainstream residential contexts and too little focused on how to revitalize their current contexts without engineered economic or racial integration. In these critics’ preferred scenarios, any mixedincome integration would come from increased income and assets of the current population. Imbroscio (2012) labeled the alternative antipoverty paradigm that emerges from their contributions to the literature the “placemaking paradigm,” with a focus on investing in high-poverty, racially segregated communities as they are without requiring resident mobility in or out.
Noting the underlying structural factors that present the fundamental barriers to greater social and economic mobility, Fraser, Chaskin, and Bazuin begin to map out an agenda for comprehensive political action to address a list of issues such as living wage, Earned Income Tax Credit program expansion, affordable housing, education, access to technology, and “issues of discrimination.”
Imbroscio, Pattillo, and Vale would likely propose that a place-based frame be added for strategic targeting of these structural changes. For this recommendation to be feasible and actionable, far more detail will be needed about the catalyst for such comprehensive political action and the civic, political, and perhaps corporate mechanisms through which such action will be mobilized, organized, and sustained long enough to achieve legislative and policy success. A host of potential allies certainly exists for such a movement—tenant and resident leadership groups, legal advocates, housing activists, policy organizations, and scholar-activists, to name a few. Armed with the growing evidence about the futility of an individuals-only approach to poverty deconcentration and the enduring and mounting costs to communities, municipalities, regions, and ultimately nations from avoiding more structural solutions, it may be possible to forge strategic alliances with housing authorities, municipal governments, and eventually civic and corporate interests.
In the meantime, as some policymakers and practitioners pursue a path to more fundamental structural changes, others could tackle a more pragmatic and short-term path to a comprehensive rethinking and reformulating of poverty deconcentration efforts. I do agree that the realities of enduring segregation (in some cases through structural marginalization of poor people and racial and ethnic minorities, in other cases through individual choice and preferences, and in most cases for reasons hard to distinguish) require us to seek policies that will revitalize low-income communities as they are. I also feel, however, that we must continue to sharpen and advance our abilities to create and sustain mixed-income communities of choice. Increasing diversity and socioeconomic divides require the continuation of the quest for greater residential inclusion and equity in all communities, rather than the acceptance that separate but equal may be the best we can accomplish in our society.
Rather than tossing mixed-income development and dispersal programs into the same category, I suggest that as a field we need to be even sharper about the distinctions between these two approaches and their relative costs, benefits, and feasibility in various contexts. Even more important would be to develop better evidence about which types of households seem to benefit most from each approach so that we can provide a better science of resident relocation counseling and supports.
Furthermore, several existing federal and local programs could be strategically enhanced to address the shortcomings discussed in this symposium. I would recommend, rather than modifying each separately, a comprehensive rethinking of these programs as a suite of efforts with a common and integrated set of enhancements. These efforts would include technical assistance to implementers, stronger guidelines and requirements in funding applications and competitions, better local collaborations to make more efficient use of existing local capacities and resources, and incentives for innovation.
To be specific, in the U.S. context, which I know best, the programs I have in mind are the HCVP, project-based vouchers, mixed-income development, inclusionary zoning, and community development block grants (CDBG). The first four programs primarily and often exclusively focus on affordable housing as a platform, without strategically leveraging that platform with other local resources to attempt to change household social and economic mobility. The CDBG program is usually disconnected from these other efforts, deployed locally in a variety of ways, and it usually spreads a shrinking set of resources inefficiently across the local landscape.
At the national, regional, and local levels, policymakers and practitioners could draw on existing evidence to identify the most important strategic enhancements to these housing platform programs and how existing resources could be better aligned and integrated to add these programmatic dimensions. Choice Neighborhoods in the United States presents a live example of this process, enhancing the HOPE VI program with a focus on employment and education. Why not apply this same housing-plus enhancement innovation to the HCVP and project-based voucher and inclusionary zoning programs? How might CDBG funds be deployed in much tighter coordination with these other efforts?
The early Choice Neighborhoods experience is instructive; successful implementation of the housing platform alone is exceedingly complex. Designing, resourcing, implementing, and sustaining enhancements such as supportive services, high-quality educational opportunities, workforce development, governance, and community building will take careful upfront strategic design; dedicated and vigilant technical assistance; and keen accountability from funders, partners, and constituencies.
As evidence mounts about the limited and sometimes detrimental effects of current social-mixing policies on urban poor people, the need for course correction and a new comprehensive path forward is clear. Ideally, this path will involve a longer term political quest for more structural change and a short-term effort to fundamentally enhance current programs in a comprehensive, integrated way.
Acknowledgments The author thanks Smaranda Ene, Taryn Gress, and April Hirsh for their research assistance on the review of articles in this symposium.
Author Mark L. Joseph is an associate professor at the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and the Director of the National Initiative on Mixed-Income Communities (http://nimc.case.edu).
References Imbroscio, David. 2012. “Beyond Mobility: The Limits of Liberal Urban Policy,” Journal of Urban Affairs 34 (1): 1–20.
———. 2008. “United and Actuated by Some Common Impulse of Passion: Challenging the Dispersal Consensus in American Housing Policy Research,” Journal of Urban Affairs 30 (2): 111–130.
Pattillo, Mary. 2008. “Investing in Poor and Black Neighborhoods ‘As Is.’” In Public Housing Transformation: Confronting the Legacy of Segregation, edited by Susan J. Popkin and Lynette Rawlings.
Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press: 31–46.
Vale, Lawrence. 2013. Purging the Poorest: Public Housing and the Design Politics of Twice-Cleared Communities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
———. 2006. “Comment on Mark Joseph’s ‘Is Mixed-Income Development an Antidote to Urban Poverty?’” Housing Policy Debate 17 (2): 259–269.
———. 1996. “Public Housing Redevelopment: Seven Kinds of Success,” Housing Policy Debate 7 (3): 491–534.
Cityscape 221 222 Mixed Messages on Mixed Incomes Point of Contention: Homeownership and Child Well-Being For this issue’s Point of Contention, we asked four housing economists with substantial knowledge of the topic to argue for or against the following proposition—“The research to date is consistent with a significant causal effect of homeownership on child well-being and the educational attainment of young people.” Please contact alastair.w.mcfarlane@ hud.gov to suggest other thought-provoking areas of controversy.
Do Kids of Homeowners Do Better Than Kids of Renters?
Richard K. Green University of Southern California At first blush, there is no reason to think that choice of housing tenure should affect child outcomes. Economists think of tenure choice as a financial decision, grounded in the relative costs of owning or renting a house. But a problem exists with the economist’s view of the tenure choice problem—for most people, in most time periods, after taking into account the transaction costs and maintenance costs of being a homeowner, owning produces an inferior economic outcome to renting. Yet, even in the aftermath of a period when owner-occupied housing has performed intensely badly, Americans seem to want to be homeowners. The question is, why?
Before we attempt to answer this question, let us look at the evidence for the relationship between tenure and child outcomes. We may divide research papers into two types—those that view the preponderance of the evidence as supporting the idea that kids of homeowners are more likely to finish school, less likely to get pregnant at a young age, have better cognition, and fewer behavioral problems (Green and White, 1997; Haurin, Parcel, and Haurin, 2003; Dietz and Haurin, 2003) and those that do not view the preponderance of the evidence this way (Barker and Miller, 2009;
Holupka and Newman, 2012).
All the papers agree on a stylized fact—that using simple econometric models, homeowning, after controls are in place, predicts child outcomes. If all we were worried about was prediction, we could stop the argument at that point. To say one thing predicts another is, however, different from saying that one thing causes another. If something we observe is highly correlated with something we do not observe, and that observed thing predicts an outcome, we can not say whether it is the observed thing or the unobserved thing that is causing the outcome. All papers attempt to control for unobserved characteristics; results across papers vary.
Assume that it is not tenure choice that drives child outcomes, but rather unobservable characteristics: parents who select into owning are simply different from parents who do not. Let us also say that parents who become owners are more likely to have personality traits conducive to being good Cityscape 223 Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research • Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development • Office of Policy Development and Research Green parents than those who become renters. This assumption prompts a couple of questions. First, does the process of becoming an owner change the unobserved characteristics of parents? If so, so-called “corrections” for self-selection will mask a very real effect that ownership has on children. But what if the parents who embark on the ownership path are different from others from the beginning?
We might then ask why these parents want to be homeowners.
The answer might have something to do with stability. Owners essentially have infinitely lived leases.
This longevity indicates they can assure that their children remain in a stable environment, and, more specifically, can remain in a school district that their parents find desirable. Indeed, much of the work referred to in the previous section indicates that, after controlling for tenure choice, length of stay in one home is an important predictor of child outcomes. Parents with 1-year leases are not able to assure their children will have residential stability.