«Moving to opportunity voluMe 14, nuMber 2 • 2012 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and Research ...»
Sources: HUD (2000); Neighborhood Change Database 190 Moving to Opportunity Constrained Compliance: Solving the Puzzle of MTO’s Lease-Up Rates and Why Mobility Matters HUD is currently at a crossroads; given the results of MTO, should it fund or reward public housing authorities for engaging in mobility programs? Although most of the HUD budget goes toward tenant-based rental assistance in the form of housing vouchers, the HCVP alone does not facilitate mobility to low-poverty neighborhoods. Currently, a number of HUD’s new initiatives (for example, Choice Neighborhoods) are devoted to the opposite philosophy—to infuse poor communities with more resources through redevelopment, services, and subsidies; virtually no new efforts explicitly encourage the kind of assisted mobility that poor families need to access less poor, more integrated communities with better schools. We know of no hard evidence, however, that these in-place strategies actually work to improve family and child outcomes. Meanwhile, significant circumstantial evidence from quasi-experimental research (reported previously) and from the reanalysis of data on educational attainment among children in the Chicago and Baltimore MTO sites (Burdick-Will et al., 2011) suggests that continuing to subsidize units in high-poverty, low-resource neighborhoods with federal housing dollars could do children long-term, serious harm.
This situation introduces a puzzle: why are policymakers now more willing to back community development, which has virtually no empirical track record of improving family life, than mobility programs, which have moved the needle on several important outcomes? Should we not at least include mobility approaches in the package of resources poor renters can access?
The first rule of policy ought to be to do no harm. Paying the rent on a unit in a neighborhood with toxic rates of violence, deplorable schools, and weak institutional resources is simply a poor use of federal dollars in our view, when results from MTO and other programs, such as the original Gautreaux, show us that it is possible to get voucher holders to move to, and even stay in, better neighborhoods (DeLuca and Rosenbaum, 2003; Keels et al., 2005). HUD has any number of tools at hand to accomplish this goal: mobility counseling that eases access to lower poverty neighborhoods; smaller area FMRs that can eliminate the bang for the buck problem Wood (2011) identified among low-income renters, including voucher holders; streamlining portability procedures;
and pushing for source-of-income protection in more metropolitan areas. The government may not be able to save every family from the potential harms of high-poverty neighborhoods, but it can at least make sure that government programs are not putting people in harm’s way. While we wait for proven, in-place strategies, HUD should support local housing authorities in ways that ensure that mobility is a central goal.
Acknowledgments The authors thank the Russell Sage Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation for supporting some of the fieldwork from which this article draws. They also thank Xavier de Souza Briggs, Philip Tegeler, and Barbara Samuels for their thoughts on earlier drafts and Melody Boyd, Karen Burke, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Greg Duncan, Philip Garboden, Jennifer Pashup, Peter Rosenblatt, and Holly Wood for their contributions to other articles central to our arguments.
Cityscape 191Edin, DeLuca, and Owens
Authors Kathryn Edin is a professor of public policy and management in the Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University.
Stefanie DeLuca is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University.
Ann Owens is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and social policy at Harvard University.
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Turney, Kristin, Rebecca Kissane, and Kathryn Edin. 2011. “After Moving to Opportunity: How Moving to a Low-Poverty Neighborhood Improves Mental Health Among African-American Women.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. Washington, DC, November 3–5.
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Additional Reading DeLuca, Stefanie, Holly Wood, and Peter Rosenblatt. 2011. “Why Poor People Move (and Where They Go): Residential Mobility, Selection, and Stratification.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Las Vegas, NV, August 22.
Kaufman, Julie E., and James E. Rosenbaum. 1992. “The Education and Employment of LowIncome Black Youth in White Suburbs,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 14 (3): 229–240.
Sanbonmatsu, Lisa, Jeffrey R. Kling, Greg J. Duncan, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn. 2006. “Neighborhoods and Academic Achievement: Results From the Moving to Opportunity Experiment,” Journal of Human Resources 41 (4): 649–691.