«Moving to opportunity voluMe 14, nuMber 2 • 2012 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and Research ...»
0.014 – 0.006 0.00 0.001 – 0.004 – 0.016 – 0.050 – 0.023 – 0.023 – 0.05 – 0.084 – 0.085 – 0.10 ~ – 0.094 – 0.116* – 0.15 – 0.160 – 0.20 – 0.192 – 0.191 – 0.202
These strategies all complemented the purer financial incentives that were offered to respondents and interviewers as motivations for behavior. The offer of the end-game incentive did not garner the expected response; the share of respondents who completed an interview was the same between those offered the original incentives and those offered the additional end-game incentives. Keeping the study in the field and refreshing interviewers with new types of incentives to offer to respondents did increase the ERR, because they motivated the interviewers to keep trying to locate and interview elusive and reluctant respondents.
The uneven number and slight variation in the quality of staffing across MTO sites led to differential completion rates and necessitated adjustments to the field procedures (using travelers to supplement local staff), and they also led to incremental implementation of the end-game activities.
The strategy of pushing for as-high-as-possible within-site ERRs (as opposed to focusing only on a high overall ERR) certainly put strain on study resources (imagine the cost savings of shutting down one or two sites early, for example) but also added value. The analysis of ITT estimates at different response rates is one marker of potential value, wherein MTO effects on psychological distress of adults and female youth are larger and more precise with the final ERR compared with results that would have been reported had the study stopped when the field reached lower ERRs.
Acknowledgments The authors thank the Institute for Social Research data collection staff—interviewers, trackers, team leaders, production coordinators, and production managers—for their tireless efforts and dedication to high-quality data collection on the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing demonstration.
Authors Nancy Gebler is a survey director in the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan.
Lisa A. Gennetian is a senior research director of economic studies at The Brookings Institution.
Margaret L. Hudson is a survey specialist in the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan.
Barbara Ward is a survey director in the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan.
Matthew Sciandra is a research analyst at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
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Cityscape 85Gebler, Gennetian, Hudson, Ward, and Sciandra
Sanbonmatsu, Lisa, Jens Ludwig, Larry F. Katz, Lisa A. Gennetian, Greg J. Duncan, Ronald C. Kessler, Emma Adam, Thomas W. McDade, and Stacy Tessler Lindau. 2011. Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration Program: Final Impacts Evaluation. Report prepared by the National Bureau of Economic Research for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research.
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86 Moving to Opportunity MTO: A Successful Housing Intervention Jennifer Comey Susan J. Popkin Kaitlin Franks Urban Institute Abstract At its core, Moving to Opportunity (MTO) was a housing intervention offering public housing families tenant-based vouchers to move to the private market. Giving families vouchers resulted in better quality housing for them 10 to 15 years later, potentially contributing to the physical and mental health improvements of those who participated in MTO. Using a triangulated, multisource strategy, we find that two-thirds of all MTO households still receive housing assistance. The Section 8 group experienced higher rates of doubling up, although the MTO intervention had no effect on housing cost burdens.
The experimental group experienced material hardship, making tradeoffs between paying their rent on time and paying utilities.
Introduction The research objective of the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) for Fair Housing demonstration was to test the long-term effect of moving families with children from public or project-based housing developments located in very low-income neighborhoods to subsidized private-market rental units in neighborhoods with low poverty levels. The hypothesis tested was that exposing families to low-poverty environments would result in improvements in their employment, income, education, health, and social well-being. Although it was also a larger social intervention, MTO was, at its core, a housing intervention offering families living in some of the worst public housing developments in the nation the opportunity to receive a tenant-based voucher and move to the private market. Most cities have extremely long waiting lists for housing assistance, particularly tenantbased vouchers, because need is greater than supply, which makes it difficult for those already in public housing to switch to using vouchers. The MTO lottery offered a rare opportunity for these residents to jump to the head of the line (Finkel and Buron, 2001; Turner and Kingsley, 2008).
The MTO demonstration’s experimental design (described in other articles in this symposium and in Sanbotmatsu, 2011) also makes comparing different forms of housing assistance possible. Currently, the federal government provides rental housing subsidies for very low-income households in two basic forms: project-based subsidies are attached to specific apartments or homes managed by public housing agencies (PHAs) or private owners, whereas tenant-based housing vouchers help pay the rent for homes and apartments on the private market (for more detail, see Turner and Kingsley, 2008). Over the years, vouchers have accounted for a growing share of all federal assistance to very low-income renters. Housing advocates and policymakers, however, continue to debate the relative strengths and weaknesses of these two approaches. MTO provides an opportunity to compare rigorously, all else being equal, the benefits for low-income families of living in subsidized projects as opposed to receiving vouchers or vouchers plus an incentive to locate in a low-poverty neighborhood. Note, however, that the subsidized projects targeted for participation in the MTO demonstration are not typical of all federally subsidized rental housing. By design, the targeted projects were located in high-poverty neighborhoods and suffered from physical deterioration and social distress.
Context for the MTO Demonstration In 1994, when MTO began, the public housing program had become a national symbol of the failures of social welfare programs. The grim highrise towers and sprawling barracks-style developments that dominated urban landscapes were a highly visible reminder of the crime, poverty, and other social ills afflicting many central city communities (Popkin et al., 2000). Many public housing properties were poorly constructed, badly managed, and inadequately funded, leading to extensive repair backlogs and putting residents at risk of injury or disease (Landrigan, Todd, and Wedeen, 1995; Manjarrez, Popkin, and Guernsey, 2007; Rosenstreich et al., 1997). Furthermore, these developments were often on undesirable urban renewal sites close to other types of subsidized housing, resulting in communities with high concentrations of racially and economically segregated, very low-income households (HUD, 1994; Turner, Popkin, and Rawlings, 2009).
MTO was a key element of the policy changes that began in the 1990s with the intention to transform public housing and use housing assistance to promote access to neighborhoods that offered greater social and economic opportunities for assisted tenants (Turner, Popkin, and Rawlings, 2009).
The largest component of this effort was the $6 billion federal HOPE VI Program, which provided large grants to housing authorities across the nation to demolish their most distressed developments and replace them with new, mixed-income housing (Popkin, Levy, and Buron, 2009).1 In all five MTO sites—Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City—the public housing developments were physically distressed and would have met the formal definition of substandard housing (NCSDPH, 1992; Scharfstein and Sandel, 1998). At baseline, participants reported extreme dissatisfaction with their housing and complained of problems such as vermin (rats, mice, and cockroaches), mold, and broken plumbing, all of which presented dangers to HOPE VI stands for Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere. The program began providing grants to housing authorities in 1993 (Popkin et al., 2000).
health and well-being. Nearly one-half of participants at baseline identified wanting a bigger or better apartment as a motivation for moving (Orr et al., 2003). Therefore, a key question for MTO is how this demonstration affected basic housing outcomes—housing quality, reliance on housing assistance, affordability, and homelessness.
How the MTO demonstration would affect housing outcomes overall was not clear at baseline.
Because of the nature of the voucher program and limits on Fair Market Rent (FMR), voucher holders tend to be concentrated in low-income communities where rents are affordable, vacancy rates are high, and quality is relatively low. MTO offered the experimental group participants (those who were offered a voucher that could be used only in census tracts with 1990 poverty rates of less than 10 percent and who received additional mobility counseling) the assistance to move to low-poverty neighborhoods that might theoretically offer access to better quality housing stock and more responsive landlords. Even with assistance, however, participants might have trouble navigating the private market, have difficulty leasing up or securing a unit, and encounter discrimination. In the long term, even those who initially were successful in finding a unit and leasing up might experience housing instability if they had to move because of changes in the rental market or problems with their landlords. Conversely, if MTO really helped participants improve their social and economic circumstances, they might earn their way off housing assistance, leaving them vulnerable to economic reversals.
As it turned out, in addition to the basic challenges of navigating the rental market with a voucher, the demonstration took place in the context of a rapidly changing housing market, during a period when the incomes of Americans with the lowest incomes declined (after adjusting for inflation) and housing markets became even more segregated by income and race (Briggs, Popkin, and Goering, 2010).
We begin this article briefly summarizing the key findings. Then we review the data sources and methodology used for analysis, describing in detail the new multisource triangulation method used to identify MTO participants’ housing assistance at the time of the final impacts evaluation (Sanbonmatsu et al., 2011). We review our findings regarding housing quality, homelessness and doubling up, housing costs and burdens, and housing payment challenges. We finish by considering the implications of the MTO demonstration and receiving vouchers in general.
Summary of Findings Originally, giving low-income families vouchers at the start of the demonstration resulted in better quality housing compared with that of the control group (participants who were not offered vouchers or counseling). This finding is consistent with research on the effect of HOPE VI redevelopment on outcomes for relocated residents (Popkin, Levy, and Buron, 2009). The public housing developments in the MTO demonstration were in such poor shape that participants both experienced immediate improvements (evidenced by the results from the interim survey [Orr et al., 2003]) and sustained them over the long term (evidenced by the final evaluation survey results). These improvements in housing quality could have very likely contributed to the improvements in the physical and mental health of MTO participants.
Cityscape 89Comey, Popkin, and Franks